High Spirits – Motivator
Label: High Roller Records
Release Date: September 16, 2016
The last few years has seen a resurgence of bands tapping into the spirit of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) artists of the late 70s and early 80s. Among the best of those are several American acts including Chicago’s High Spirits. After releasing a collection of demos, the North Coast rockers unleashed their debut Another Night in 2011. In 2014 they followed this up with the formidable sophomore release, You Are Here. This summer, High Spirits will unleash their third effort, Motivator through High Roller Records.
If you are already familiar with High Spirits, who sound more like they hail from Newcastle, England than the Windy City, then Motivator picks up where You Are Here left off. If you’re new to the band, Motivator will have you searching for their earlier releases, all of which are available through their Bandcamp page.
High Spirits is the vision of band mastermind Chris “The Professor” Black, who is also known for his work with Dawnbringer, Superchrist, and Pharaoh. In fact, Black is the band, writing all of the songs and performing all instruments and vocals. The High Spirits sound captures the magic of the NWOBHM style but also elements of other seminal hard rock bands like Thin Lizzy, Riot, and UFO. At the heart of his songwriting is the unapologetic simplicity of catchy melodies, muscular riffs, and unaffected vocals. Motivator hits hard and fast with big hooks, and memorable melody lines, but it also ends quickly, lasting just under 30 minutes. There is no wasted effort here.
The album opens, after the brief intro “Up and Overture”, with the driving rhythms of “Flying High”. Charging drums and crisp riffage blend with Black’s straight forward vocals and perfectly placed nuances to make the song shine. This is followed by “Into the Night” with its galloping bass line and spiraling fretwork.
“Reach for the Glory” is one of the album’s many highlights, with its Maiden-esque guitar harmonies, infectious chorus, and beefy rhythms. Conversely, “Do You Wanna Be Famous?” with its spiky bass line and optimistic bounce, takes a look at those bands who want all the fame without the effort.
The pace slows for the shuffling roll of “Haunted by Love” and its almost pop-like feel. The tempo picks back up on “Down the Endless Road” which has some of the album’s most tasty guitar moments.
“Take Me Home” cops a bit of Maiden’s “Running Free” swagger on the verses, but the chorus owes more to classic Saxon. The album closes out with the chug and rumbler, “Thank You”, an ode to the fans and supporters that keep High Spirits soaring.
With Motivator, High Spirits has created its best work to date. The album is ripe with all the elements of the classic metal signature that changed the face of the genre 35/40 years ago. It is at once addictive and accessible. The band has even created a logo that recalls this gloried past. None of the instrumental performances on Motivator are virtuoso caliber, and Black will be the first to admit this, but they need not be to serve the song, and the songwriting is where Black truly excels: Motivator is an album of fantastic and memorable songs.