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High Spirits

Hard to Stop

Review by Mike Korn

High Spirits is a Chicago-based band that is one of the many creations of multi-talented musician “Professor” Chris Black. Black’s musical range extends from the ultra-fast black metal of Dawnbringer to the experimental prog rock of Aktor. High Spirits is his most high-profile creation and the easiest one to get into. The band has tapped into that magical period of the late 70s to early 80s when hard rock was transforming into tuneful heavy metal.


Hard to Stop demonstrates this pretty well, with some songs being the heaviest and most aggressive the band has ever done and others being almost straight American rock n’ roll. As always, it’s a smooth listen, well-performed and produced. The amount of classically themed heavy metal is exploding these days and High Spirits deserves to be at the forefront of this movement.


This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 5. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
Since You’ve Been Gone

No, this is not a remake of the Head East hit (technically speaking that was titled "Since You Been Gone," and was written and originally performed by Russ Ballard. Head East's cover was a hit, but Rainbow's version charted higher in the UK - ed.), but an original High Spirits track. This comes in with a strong arpeggio over heavy riffs and then speeds up to a fast sprint. Prof. Black’s clean multi-tracked vocals are smooth and easy to listen to. The chorus has the catchiness of a 70s AOR radio hit. It’s pretty much a perfect mix of metal and melodic rock.

Restless
There’s a bit of Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy to this track, but again filtered through a kind of American hard rock sensibility. The verse sections have a ton of crunch, to them and the chorus reminds me a bit of April Wine, which is a band that doesn’t get name checked as much as they should.
Face To Face
Heavy guitar crunch is retained here, with simple heavy riffs and another hooky chorus line. I like the really fluid lead guitar solo, which almost melts into the song. Black makes that seem easy.
Hearts Will Burn
There’s no doubt this bruiser is pure heavy metal. This has really heavy echoes of classic NWOBHM bands like Blitzkrieg, Witchfynde and Diamond Head. Yet the chorus still has that almost AOR feel to it. This is likely the heaviest High Spirits song ever.
Voice In The Wind
In near total contrast to the previous song, this is a slice of American hard rock that almost has a John Cougar Mellencamp feel to it. It’s still pretty rockin’, with a guitar solo that reminds me of BOC’s Buck Dharma, but something that could easily be played on the radio - if radio was worth a damn anymore. For a seasoned metalhead, this cut is a bit on the cornball side but shows the band’s versatility.
All Night Long
There’s a lot of twin guitar harmony ala Thin Lizzy on this one, but the verses have that crunching riffing similar to “Face to Face”. Black’s drumming is really strong here. It’s important to remember that he plays everything on this album.
Midnight Sun
The steady metallic chug of this song has strong echoes of Judas Priest and Accept. Again, the bedrock of the cut is based on the simplest of hooks. We have another multi-tracked melodic chorus in what is now obviously a High Spirits trademark. This is a little bit on the bland side.
Now I Know
This is one of my favorites. It’s so straightforward and simple. It’s brilliant, but it doesn’t sound like any other song here. It’s got an almost punk rock kind of buzz saw riff, but the vocals and lead guitar add melody. It's just a really cool number that sinks in deep.
We Are Everywhere
The album ends with this longer tune that allows more time for lead guitar jamming and plenty of twin lead work. Fast and melodic, this is a typical High Spirits tune.
 
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