I’ve counted myself as a fan of Michael Amott’s stoner offshoot, Spiritual Beggars since I did the merch for a European tour spruiking their then brand-spanking-new Mantra III album in, ooh, 1998. I’ve not been a constant, or overbearingly ardent admirer, you understand, preferring to drift in and out of the band’s career as they’ve meandered from release to release, cherry picking as and when they’ve really set the pulse raising – 2000’s Ad Astra and last release Earth Blues from 2013 spring to mind here- but, all that notwithstanding, I have to say I’ve never heard the ‘Beggars sounding as good as they do today with latest release Sunrise to Sundown.
To these ears that’s largely because the ‘stoner’ has all but gone, to be replaced by a delightfully sleek yet hard edged sound that places the band somewhere between the end of the seventies and the start of the eighties sonically; At times the band sounds like a glorious melange of Rainbow, Uriah Heap and the Michael Schenker Group thanks, by turn, to the incendiary guitar playing of Amott, Per Wiberg‘s always-impressive keys contributions and some wonderful throatwork courtesy of Apollo Papathanasio. The proggy No Man’s Land and I Turn to Stone see the band right at home amidst mellotron orchestras full of blissed out strings and are probably what the non-commited observer might assume this band would sound like but for the most part, what you get here is solid, mightily impressive heavy rock n’roll, which at it’s best, on tracks like Diamond Under Pressure, is damn near untouchable in the modern arena performance and execution-wise.
I’ve said it before, I’ll doubtless say it again, and I’m definitely going to say it now: I firmly believe Michael Amott to be the finest guitarist currently plying his trade in the modern world of heavy rock, and his work throughout Sunrise to Sundown is utterly exemplary. Unforgiving in the riff, tasteful beyond compare in the solo, there’s nothing this man can’t do and he does it all on this album. His playing alone is worth the admission fee, but, thankfully, that’s not all there is to Spiritual Beggars. Amott is that most precious of things – a hugely talented guitarist who never forgets that the song is more important – and on the likes of excellent tracks like Dark Light Child he and Papathanasio both deliver bravura performances that use their chops purely for the advancement of the song with devastating results.
There quite literally is not a second of music wasted on this release, from the strident opening chords of the title track to the closing pomposity of Southern Star and if you have any interest at all in quality ‘classic’ heavy rock I urge you not to waste a second more of your time before you hightail it down to your local recorded output emporium and invest in a copy.
Sunrise to Sundown is out now on Century Media Records