Spirit Adrift – Chained To Oblivion
Spirit Adrift came to life in 2015 after founding member Nate Garrett (Gatecreeper, ex-Take Over And Destroy) found himself at a crossroads and deeply in debt to alcohol. The realities he faced led to his taking solace in music and creating his way out of an ever increasing hole of despair. He spoke at length with Noisey about the terror he faced and how Spirit Adrift was borne from that, and how it was the beginnings of a new path to clarity. After the Behind – Beyond EP of this year, Spirit Adrift has taken a huge step forward and while the music is steeped in pain, there is hope at its centre. It seems unnecessary to perpetuate a time in a person’s life where things weren’t great, so instead let’s look at the album that came out of the turmoil and how it’s leading Nate into a brighter future. We’ve also got a specially curated playlist from Nate himself which gives us some insight into his inspirations for this solo project.
Spirit Adrift is one of many forces in my life that realigned my path and saved me. The others being my future wife, our families, my community of support, and my dog. My fiancé definitely was the most important one. I can say with all certainty I’d be dead without her. But yeah, Spirit Adrift plays a key role in all that. Initially, it gave me something to redirect the obsessed part of my mind. Instead of power drinking for 12 hours straight, I’d be playing drums until my hands bled, or reworking guitar parts until I couldn’t even think. I’m more hopeful than I have ever been for my future. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my whole life. Spirit Adrift will forever be inherently connected with everything that happened to give me a reason to live, and the drive to be a better person.
Chained To Oblivion marks the first time Garrett has created music independently from a band and he plays everything heard on this record. Considering his frame of mind at the time of recording and having ventured out as a solo artist, the album is coherent, textured and shot through with the kind of sadness only hitting rock bottom can inspire. When asked about how making music alone felt, he had this to say.
The writing and recording process was intense, especially considering the time frame in which I did it. I wrote and recorded the EP in May of 2015, then recorded the full-length in October. I had zero material prepared prior to that. It was a lot of pressure, but to be honest that was a good feeling. I knew if I blew it, I had no one to blame but myself. These circumstances motivated me more than I had been in a really long time. It totally consumed me for those 5-6 months. I mean consumed me. I re-taught myself how to play drums before the EP, and then had to get good enough to play what was in my head for the full-length. I was working on Chained To Oblivion basically every waking moment, in some way or another. There were moments when it was overwhelming, but it makes it that much more satisfying now. I wouldn’t have it any other way. That said, there’s been a ton of interest from some important people in live performances, so I put a band together. I’m grateful and fortunate, all my first choices agreed to be involved. I wholeheartedly trust these guys with the songs. Lets just say we’re ready to make a serious impact in the live setting.
Chained To Oblivion follows a familiar pattern of doomed passages and straightforward beats, but it’s the honesty and rawness of the sound that appeals more than anything. Garrett’s voice isn’t perfect, but it’s layered in harmony and imbued with all the harshness of life and the tribulations that he’s faced in recent times. He speaks of the battle in “Psychic Tide,” and his vocal performance calls to mind that of Brett Campbell of Pallbearer (a comparison Nate says he finds 100% flattering and goes into more detail on below). The track moves in fairly simplistic waves, but occasionally dips into somewhat dissonant territory, which gives the song an addled perspective that addiction unfortunately brings. There’s a definite emotional curve to this first track and it’s here that the album begins its journey towards the other side, towards hope and light and the promise of a future. Guitars are crunchy when needed, but soar when the song takes a moment to look towards the horizon and the aspirations that lie there. They spin out into the space and wrap you in warmth and promise, and it’s here that Chained To Oblivion truly takes flight.
I cut my musical teeth in Arkansas and became really close with Brett (Campbell), and then later the other guys. The community is really strong in Fayetteville and Little Rock, Arkansas. The Pallbearer dudes lived in Little Rock, but Brett would come to Fayetteville to party. They recorded the first album with our dear friend Chuck (Deadbird, former guitarist of Rwake and drummer of Pallbearer, among others). Chuck’s studio was right around the corner from my house, and a band I was in called Sinking South was recording at the same time. The first time I heard a snippet off Sorrow and Extinction master tapes, I was in shock. It was so inspiring to hear Brett’s voice. At the time I had no idea he could sing. I’ve since gone on tour with Pallbearer and I will actually be 1/2 of the road crew on their upcoming tour with Baroness. The way I look at it is that we love and admire a lot of the same bands, so of course we’re going to sound similar. They’re way more into stuff like prog and instrumental synth type stuff, whereas the Spirit Adrift tunes are a little more rooted in blues based music and Thin Lizzy, that sort of thing. So I feel like, especially from a songwriters perspective, the bands are vastly different. I will say, no matter how long I’ve been playing Sabbathian music, when they put out that first album it changed everything for me. That’s one of the most significant records of all time. I really believe that. They’ve been an inspiration for a long time and are some of my favorite people.
“Chained to Oblivion” begins on gorgeous, sombre tones that speak of sadness and loss before Garrett’s voice spills over the top and takes the song into ever more sorrowful planes. The record is desperately mournful but there’s no sign of Garrett wallowing in sadness or self pity. Instead, he uses his music as a turning point, a catharsis and through this he moves forward and begins to see the light. “Form and Force” utilises beautiful harmonics and low, dirty tones to create a sense of acceptance (not defeat) and enables the song to take flight and be tangible in its hope.
“Hum of Our Existence” is the final piece of Spirit Adrift’s recovery and within its walls are soaring guitars and an ode to the frailty of humanity. While the majority of the track feels its way in lighter tones, a heat soon permeates the serenity and Garrett’s voice takes a turn for the Matt Pike. All growled, low vocals and fiery guitar the song cascades in swells of anger before falling back into graceful passages and ending the album on notes of hope and promise. The story behind the record may be one of addiction, of feeling lost and alone but the album itself is much more buoyant and confident than its inspiration.
And finally, Nate curated a Spotify playlist for us which has many influences and some interesting tunes you many not immediately think of when you hear his music. Below he picks out three and explains what led to the choice.
Sure! I feel like there’s some super obvious songs on here, but I’m going to pick three of the head-scratcher tunes.
Dreams by The Cranberries: I have such an infatuation with vocal harmonies, and singers who are distinct and unique. The melodies and harmonies in this song are so moving, haunting, and melancholy. Patrick Walker from Warning/40 Watt Sun is one of my favorite singers. The way he approaches his vocal performance is astonishing. He manages to combine traditional doom vocals with that special inflection that evokes old Gaelic and Celtic folk singing. So powerful. I feel like Dolores O’Riordan channels that same ancient sadness.
Gone Away With A Friend by Ralph Stanley: I found out about Dr. Stanley via the Coen brothers’ flick O Brother Where Art Thou? He has one of those timeless, raw, emotional voices. Magical. I feel like gospel, bluegrass, and country is embedded in my DNA. My mother was from the hills of Kentucky, and both sides of my family are deeply rooted in the south. I’m not a Christian, but there is some real power in a lot of old gospel music. These people truly believe what they’re singing. I mean, Wovenhand is one of the scariest bands of all time, regardless of your spiritual beliefs. This stuff is similarly compelling to me. I watched Ralph Stanley’s funeral online, and turns out he was a Freemason, which might partially explain the unsettled but excited feeling I get listening to his music.
Terminator Theme/Jurassic Park Theme: There are intervals at play here that I try to imbed in every song I ever write, if possible. When I’m writing lead guitar, especially, if there’s ever an opportunity to touch upon some of these phrases, I’ll do it. I mean, who can hear either one of these themes and not be moved?