Spiritual Beggars – Earth Blues | Review

For what was originally a rebound fling for guitarist Michael Amott when he left Carcass in 1993, Sweden's Spiritual Beggars has turned into a fairly prolific band in its own right. The word “band” being essential to Spiritual Beggars, as Amott's cast of cohorts for the second LP in succession—bassist Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy), keyboardist Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth), drummer Ludwig Witt (Grand Magus) and vocalist Apollo Papathanasio (Firebird)—are far from henchmen hired to gratify the guitarist's ego trip. But, then again, Spiritual Beggars has never come across as such over its seven previous records.
This time around each member fully embraces their love for ‘70s hard and prog rock, with the classic glide ‘n’ slide of Rainbow, Whitesnake, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple drenching the twelve, multicoloured songs of ‘Earth Blues’. Also lurking within these songs are stunning individual moments of luminosity that avoid self-aggrandisation and substantially raise the calibre of each composition. Amott and Wiberg excel by adding both contemporary appeal and classic rock feel to their playing, as 'Sweet Magic Pain' and 'Hello Sorrow' showcase superbly. 'Hello Sorrow' opens with a signature Amott solo that wouldn't sit out an Arch Enemy track before taking off with an emerald riff ripped right out of Thin Lizzy's treasure trove, while Wiberg pounds the keys purple like Jon Lord, kicks out the boogie with Witt and D'Angelo on 'One Man's Curse', and dons Rick Wakeman's cape for 'Kingmaker'.
But as we all know when it comes to hard rock music of this style: the singer can make or break the band. Thankfully, Papathanasio sounds more confident than on 2010's 'Return to Zero' and his versatility and ear for a catchy melody looms large over the band's former singers; which is no mean feat. The man can channel John Lawton and Ronnie James Dio in the space of one song ('To Old To Die Young'), and whether the band is tossing out Sabbathian grooves ('Turn the Tide', 'Legends Collapse') or looking to the soul of the Delta blues at the beginning of 'Dreamer', Papathanasio's chameleonic pipes lead each changeover with panache. It's the unabashed joy of it all that makes for what is by far the best LP yet to be released under the Beggars banner. So if you want to hear what radio music sounded like back when people placed actual "musicians" on a pedestal, ‘Earth Blues’ really is essential listening.

Dean Brown

Band info: www.spiritualbeggars.com
Label info: www.insideoutmusic.com

Dean Brown is a metal scribe based in Ireland. He is currently a contributing editor to the North American cultural magazine Popmatters and he regularly throws words for a number of other reputable loud noise publications such as About.com/heavy metal, Soundshock.com, MetalIreland.com, MoltenMagazine.com, amongst others. He has a strong affinity for music that shakes souls and leaves debilitating tinnitus in its wake and such obsession has left him financially and medically crippled, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Follow Dean on twitter @reus85