High Spirits - Another night 4.5/5

Reviewed: 2-1-12


1. Another night in the city
2. Do you remember
3. Full power
4. Demons at the door
5. Iíll be back
6. You make love impossible
7. Where did I go wrong
8. Nights in black
9. Going up

Whatís older than old school? What sort of image is no image at all? Chicagoís High Spirits may have the answers to these questions. Their debut CD from a couple of years ago was a collection of demos wrapped in a simple white package with the bandís logo, song titles, and lyrics in black lettering. No fancy computer graphics, oil paintings, photographs, or even thank-you lists. Hell, there werenít even any credits, band member listings, or anything more than a simple inscription ď100% high-energy rock music!!!Ē Truth in advertising, for sure. It wasnít that High Spirits were trying to be mystical or secretive as some kind of silly Ghost-like marketing gimmick. High Spirits and marketing donít belong on the same planet, much less the same sentence. They just wanted to let the music do the talking. Thatís old school.

Not much has changed on this 2nd High Spirits CD, entitled ĎAnother nightí. Once again, the packaging is minimalistic to a fault, featuring just a simple photo of the nighttime Chicago skyline, reproduced throughout the booklet behind the lyrics. The only concession to credits on ĎAnother nightí is a few bare lines of text such as, ďWritten, produced and performed by Chris.Ē No last name given, or needed. The ďChrisĒ in question is Chris Black, whom some of you may know as the drummer of cult U.S. traditional/power metallers Pharaoh or the bassist/vocalist of Motorhead-obsessed speedfreaks Superchrist. The guy is super-talented, no doubt. High Spirits is his outlet for 70s/early-80s hard rock/heavy metal exploration. Itís Thin Lizzy. Itís a huge dose of less punky Dianno-era Iron Maiden. Itís a less AC/DC ĎStrong arm of the lawí-era Saxon. Itís a grimier ĎRockíníroll overí-era Kiss. And yeah, itís a cleaner Motorhead too. For modern-day comparisons, itís Widow and Bible of the Devil and Slough Feg and Zuul and Vanderbuyst. But itís older and mustier and rootsier and more obscure than all of that somehow. It harkens back to a time even earlier than the zebra-striped-spandex-wearing, flying-V-wielding stuff thatís all the rage with the Enforcers and Axevypers and Steelwings of the world.

However you classify it, High Spiritsí music is absolutely captivating. Sure, the songs are stripped down and simple. But every last one of them features toe-tapping, grin-inducing classic guitar riffs, timeless melodies, awesome guitar harmonies, and effective, heartfelt vocals, with Black coming across, oddly enough, like a cheerful Lemmy. Itís 100% high-energy rock music, sure, but that only tells part of the story. The energy is positive, uplifting and undeniably infectious. It reminds me of pre-disco FM rock radio in the 70s, only with way more guitars, an extra jolt of adrenaline, and the coolness factor bumped up to 11. I suppose the best way to summarize it is this: I listen to High Spirits because their music makes me feel good. It makes me want to take a case of crappy, mass-produced beer out on my back porch and rock out to a cheap boombox all night long. (Iím sure my elderly neighbors, not to mention my long-suffering wife, would love that.) It makes me feel alive.

If youíre a member of the genre police, please donít bother with High Spirits at all. Theyíre not power metal. Insofar as theyíre heavy metal, itís in the broad sense of the genre. Some metalheads will love them, but itís not hard to see this band appealing to many people who couldnít tell the difference between Steel Prophet and Steel Assassin if Steve Kachinsky was smacking them upside the head with Phil Grasso's bass guitar. Who cares? High Spirits play honest, sincere, high-powered, energetic, rockiní heavy guitar music. Thatís good enough for me. By all means, carry on, Professor Black.




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