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Review: SpiralArms’ Freedom

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Whenever I come across a group that are proudly self-described as a “rock n’ roll band,” I usually take that as a sign of admitted unoriginally. With the antiquated term comes the pre-conceived notion that any band identifying as such aren’t a far cry from being a dime-a-dozen covers band — or even worse, uninspired butt-rock popularized by the likes of Nickelback. While Californian up-and-comers SpiralArms do indeed keep an eye fixed on the rear-view mirror, the band aren’t stuck in reverse and are quick-witted enough to swerve them potholes.

The songs across the group’s new album Freedom sport an unusual familiarity, yet are varied enough in their influences and songwriting so as to avoid being so much as a re-tread as it is an homage. Freedom is thick with classic rock, from bombastic Lynyrd Skynyrd key/riff interplay of “Hold Me To The Sky” to the soaring vocal hooks on the exhilarating “Dropping Like Flies” that would feel right at home on an early Bon Jovi record, sans cheese. The bouncy and absolutely essential ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ is total acid rock, bringing to mind Foghat or Mountain, complete with cowbell and a solo so heavy on effects that Tom Morello might as well have recorded it.

This ode to the classics is matched with modern tone and production, with fuzzy “desert rock” guitars utilized by anything John Homme has ever touched. In fact, the verse riffs and ripping solo for the more upbeat ‘Drugs & Alcohol’ and the massive intro for ‘Dealer’ could lend themselves well to Mastodon’s The Hunter. This, when met with the forthright throwbacks, gives Freedom a vague air of psychedelia. Obviously, this isn’t Dopethrone or any sort of other vest metal Sabbath worship — the group aren’t nearly high enough for that — but there’s enough here to get the job done for fans of rock.

The group are at their best when they’re going all-out with their rock jams, letting their guard down long enough to indulge in guitar solos, keyboards, fast tempos, and — to an extent — feel-good, anthemic choruses. The album hits a few stalls in pacing though when tracks like the buzzkill of ‘Blackmoon Morning’ and the obligated acoustic ballad ‘Lovers Leap.’ The title track also slows the pace, but is redeemed when it drops into a powerful doom dirge during the bridge. Surely, these songs were well intentioned as lighters-out sort of songs, but in the context of Freedom, they get in the way of a fun time.

All in all though, Freedom is an honest ode to classic rock that does its job quite well. The hooks are there, and so is the instrumentation. There has been a growing interest in a modern take on this sort of sound in the metal scene, but fans who are into the resurgence of occult rock may need to tread lightly when it comes to SpiralArms, as they’re more on the feel good Southern side of 70’s rock than anything particularly evil. For Freedom, you’re more likely to pick up a six pack than a bong, but you’ll have fun either way.

SpiralArms’ Freedom comes out October 22nd through Steamhammer/SPV. Listen to the track “Drugs & Alcohol” here.

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