For Spiritual Beggars founder Michael Amott (Arch Enemy, Carnage, Carcass) their seventh album Return to Zero has a deeper meaning. "... it felt like starting over. Our previous singer JB decided to leave the band ..." Enter vocalist Apollo Papathanasio (Firewind) who live only 20 minutes from Amott. Still, its been five years since the Beggars' wonderful Demons. After two years of relentless touring with his extreme metal outfit Arch Enemy, Amott and Spiritual Beggars return with a premium platter of (quite classic) heavy rock.
Early on Spiritual Beggars was lumped into the category of stoner rock or metal simply because of their heavy, sometimes miry, sound. Indeed, some inherent heaviness remains on Return to Zero, but there more than meets the ear here. Deep tones are blended with evident notions of blues hard rock, with noticeable amounts of Hammond organ for texture. The Chaos of Rebirth and We Are Free are brilliant songs of earth-moving heaviness merged with infectious and intense rocking grooves and melody. While the music is exciting, vocalist Papathanasio is the added 'x-factor' that breathes genuine enthusiasm and passion (listen to The Road Less Travelled) into every song, thanks to his earthy style. I always thought he was great with Firewind as a metal singer, but Apollo charms you with his easy and natural range on this disc. He reminds me of a hybrid of David Byron and David Coverdale, with the dangerous soaring edge of Sir Dio (RIP).
There's a lot to love, and explore, on Return to Zero. Sometimes a song sounds like an echo of the past like the 70ish Spirit of the Wind. Others thunder with that Spiritual Beggars assertive ground swelling heaviness like Lost in Yesterday. Then it's pure catchy melodic hard rock of Coming Home, a crowd-pleasing, foot-tapping, arena rock style number. Concrete Horizon's groove, and profoundly simple guitar licks, is so deliberate and infectious to persuade any listener to Beggars' charm. Fine stuff, indeed!
For longtime fans, Return to Zero might be perplexing, yet still infinitely pleasing. Newcomers, unhinged by the so-called 'stoner' label, will find their first introduction to Spiritual Beggars an unqualified delight (in my humble opinion). Quite recommended.
For longtime fans, Return to Zero might be perplexing, yet infinitely pleasing. Newcomers, unhinged by the so-called 'stoner' label, will find their first introduction to Spiritual Beggars an unqualified delight (in my humble opinion).