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Strange Ranger - Remembering the Rockets Music Album Reviews

The best album of the Philadelphia band’s deep and underappreciated catalog dares to ask what comes after indie rock.
For Strange Ranger, indie rock isn’t just a genre; it’s an actual lifestyle, the prism through which every aspect of adulthood can be projected and understood. The 2016 album Rot Forever, by an earlier incarnation of the band, started its 72 minutes of Up Records fanfic with the line “She played rock guitar” and peaked with “Won’t you come see Pile with me?” Going by the name Sioux Falls at the time, core members Isaac Eiger and Fred Nixon were kids in Bozeman, Montana, who were prone to let one or two ideas stretch out for six minutes because that’s what their heroes Built to Spill and Modest Mouse would do. They moved to Portland for the followup, Daymoon, and it felt like a higher education, going deeper into the Pac NW canon and local scene politics (key song: “House Show”). They’re now in Philadelphia, and Remembering the Rockets is everything one might expect from…





Spirit Adrift - Divided by Darkness Music Album Reviews

Led by young oracle Nate Garrett, the second album from the Arizona heavy metal band carries the torch of their forebears and revives the genre with impressive songwriting and ambition.

Spirit Adrift is Arizona musician Nate Garrett’s vehicle for metal obsession, burning through thrash, doom, NWOBHM, melodic metal, and anything that’ll throw you out a window if you speak ill of Phil Lynott. He is not here for a nostalgia trip; he’s exploring the power within, approaching a unified theory of metal. Spirit Adrift’s second record, Cursed By Conception, is where he found his voice through forging a shared power in doom and thrash. Now, Divided By Darkness shows he has the vision for the greater pantheon.

Metal shouldn’t be measured like a recipe, but for Spirit Adrift, balance is key. No one element dominates over another: The rhythms are as mean as the solos are joyous as the cleans are beautiful. It’s how a track like “Born Into Fire” splices ripping leads and more Euro-style mournful cleans into something coherent. A thrashy jaunt like “Hear Her” can live right next to the more ambitious “Living Light,” where Garrett gets an assist from Witch Mountain’s Kayla Dixon for some vocal harmonies. Even though these sounds are well-established and defined, Garrett’s songwriting breathes new life into them. Darkness understands metal not as just a mash of distortion sounds, but as a continuous, living tradition that has meaning. He talked about Conception as a return to childhood loves of classic metal, and Darkness turns that pure love into mastery.

Even with Garrett’s expanded palette and a full band behind him, there are still shades of melancholy that have carried over from his early writing. “Tortured By Time” is the most classic doom track here, adding a modern sheen to end-time gloom. “Angel & Abyss,” though, is Darkness’ centerpiece for its reconciliation of Spirit Adrift’s past and future. It’s Metallica’s “Fade to Black” where death isn’t the exit, where it doesn’t end in self-destruction but in lead-centric renewal. Garrett channels young James Hetfield’s hopeless voice for most of the song, and ends with an Ozzy-like maniacal cackle, conquering the despair (or at least living with the madness.) It almost acts as the totality of ’80s metal majesty, a tour of hesher emotions. More than anything else on the album, it captures the me-against-the-world vibe that has informed many a metal classic.

There’s plenty of old school revival bands, yet most of them operate as if metal stopped in 1989. Though it pays much reverence to ’80s classics, Darkness also reaches into the early ’90s, when metal was in the midst of a fundamental transformation: Guns n’ Roses and Metallica proved tougher, un-glam looks was bankable, and Alice in Chains and Pantera previewed the sea change to come in their somewhat slower, markedly darker sounds. It’s an important sliver in metal history to which Darkness pays homage.

Two of Darkness’ biggest touchstones are Metallica’s Black Album and Ozzy Osbourne’s No More Tears, transitional records, both from 1991, that ultimately ended up massive commercial successes. There are few patterns more satisfying than the detuned stomp of Metallica’s “Sad But True,” and Spirit Adrift milk everything out that crunch on the title track. Garrett clearly worships Metallica, and Hetfield in his prime was an untouchable rhythm guitarist. Some keyboards sound lifted from Tears, particularly in the title track and instrumental closer “The Way of the Return,” and like Ozzy, goopy keys somehow make them sound even tougher. Darkness is old school, though not chained to one institution, more accessible but not commercial, deeper but not more complicated, a lunge forward without compromise. Garrett is a younger oracle to carry on the torch of heavy metal. Sounds like an unchill role, but he’s got the chops.

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