You know, I tend to grit my teeth whenever I hear a new rock or metal band described as a “Super Group”, an overused moniker that often means a hodgepodge of disparate artists thrown together by label pressures or a chance meeting at rehab. That’s why I’m so glad that despite a line up that could happily claim the title, featuring as they do members of such noted bands as Grand Magus, Opeth, Firewind, and Merciful Fate, all under the leadership of Michael Amott of Carcass and Arch Enemy, Spiritual Beggars eschew such cringe-worthy pomposity, and just get on with the job of making music rather than nursing egos.
And what a cracking slice of music it is; title track and album opener ‘Sunrise To Sundown’ thumps out with an unashamed strut not seen since the days before David Coverdale discovered hair dye! The guitar is played by Amott in full axe-hero mode whilst Witt bangs the skins with a power that on stage make him seem like an extra front man even though he’s blasting forth from the back of the stage. ‘Diamond Under Pressure’ channels the band’s inner Deep Purple, Wiberg’s keyboards paying homage to the late great Jon Lord, whilst on his third album with the band Apollo Pathanasio has made the role of lead vocals his very own. The evolution of Spiritual Beggars from stoner side project to full on rock gods continues unabated with ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’, a track that builds up instrument by instrument into a foot stomper of near ‘Highway Star’ proportions, showcasing the virtuosity of each and every member of the band whilst at the same time creating an instantly accessible and hook laden head-banger of a track. Yes, the guitar and keyboards might be dismissed by some naysayers as widdly wankery, but when you’re as good as these guys clearly are a bit of show-boating is more than forgiveable; in fact, it’s pretty much mandatory.
Classic hard rock tropes abound in ‘Hard Road’ where Pathanasio gets to exercise his lungs to their fullest, matching Amott’s fretboard wizardry with his own vocal chord gymnastics, whilst on ‘Still Hunter’ D’Angelo’s bass thumps hard into the foreground in a swaggering number that brings to mind the best that Bad Company had to offer in the Seventies heyday of hard rock. Track after track on ‘Sunrise to Sunset’ simply scream of class; ‘No Man’s Land’ could be an undiscovered gem from Rainbow’s back catalogue before Blackmore went a bit funny, with a Sergeant Pepper like trippy break thrown in for good measure; ‘I Turn To Stone’ lets the band show their Zeppelin influence with a wall of sound dominated by the Bonzo like drum beats of Ludwig Witt; and almost funky beats are thrown into the rhythm of ‘Dark Light Child’. Not a single track on the album is a filler, and each cries out to be played live to an appreciative audience, ‘Southern Star’ being an ideal candidate to close a set before the band are dragged back on stage for a well deserved encore.
Many bands these days are proud to show off the influence of, and their debt to classic rock acts that some shoe gazing folks are too busy being trendy to admit to liking, and on ‘Sunrise to Sunset’ Spiritual Beggars unashamedly pay homage such acts. But rather than becoming some Spinal Tap parody, the musicianship, writing skills, and obvious reverence the band has for the sound, together with a production that is polished without being overly intrusive, makes this an album more than worthy of inclusion in any modern music collection, as well as maybe being a gateway for some less aged than your humble scribe to discover the greats of yesteryear. Spiritual Beggars have added an excellent collection of songs to their growing repertoire, and I for one look forward to hearing the same chemistry the band has live.