“Spirit Adrift’s gimmick is simple: there is no gimmick,” states the band’s mastermind, Nate Garrett. “Just great songs, great heavy riffs, catchy parts that make you want to bang your head and uplifting parts that make you want to fly into the sky.” With Ghost At The Gallows, Garrett has delivered Spirit Adrift’s most fully realized work to date. A record that confidently stands at the crossroads of heavy metal at its most epic and elemental and hard rock at its most honest and heartfelt.
The road to Ghost At The Gallows was nothing short of massive undertaking for the now Texas-based multi-instrumentalist. Garrett has been weaving the sonic tapestry of Spirit Adrift since 2015, marking his own personal growth from doom metal and his much-documented sobriety to today’s sonic triumph with Ghost At The Gallows. “I wanted to write something timeless, that summed up the entire journey of Spirit Adrift,” says Nate. “Something that really connects with people beyond them temporarily feeling, ‘This is really sick! Album of the year!’ I wanted it to be something that you’re going to listen to in ten years.” From the opening strains of “Give Her to the River”, Ghost At The Gallows intricately pulls together every element of Garrett’s riff-mongering musical mastery to arrive at a conclusion and start a new chapter for Spirit Adrift
“Subconsciously, each album I do tends to have a theme or make a point,” says Nate. “I didn’t realize it when I was writing, but the new album seems to encapsulate the grieving process. I realized when I was done with it that lyrically all the stages of grief are present. It’s a way to mourn, it’s a way to grieve, to take painful things that happen in our lives and make something powerful and positive out of it. That’s been the goal with this band from day one.”
The passing of family members, pets, friends, inspirations and fellow musicians including Power Trip’s Riley Gale and Black Dahlia Murder's Trevor Strnad alongside the bleakness of covid and a world shut down provided the backdrop for Ghost At The Gallows. “Watching the mental health challenges that my friends couldn’t make it through in that time became infused into the spirit of this record,” Nate reveals. Not that the new album is all doom and gloom. The likes of “Barn Burner” or the lurching riffs of “Death Won’t Stop Me” speak to Garrett’s indefatigable constitution. “Growing up without a parent or growing up seeing death up close and personal, you either don’t make it or you take on an attitude to life of: ‘Bring it on motherfucker, is that all you’ve got?’” Garrett smiles. “I’m too fucking stubborn for therapy so I write songs.”
The history of Nate Garrett’s music-as-therapy has been a lifetime’s work. By 2015, when then Arizona-via-Arkansas transplant, Garrett channeled his songwriting drive towards Spirit Adrift, he had already honed his craft as a guitarist and driving force in countless bands including Take Over And Destroy and later Gatecreeper. He freely admits that the turn from more extreme music to the more timeless sound of Spirit Adrift was nothing short of a creative and personal redemption. “I’ve played in a million bands, honestly I think the number is like 25 bands before Spirit Adrift. I was always either the main creative force or pushing hard on the touring or end of every band I was in. By the time I got sober, I was over the whole idea of trying to be famous or make money - but the songs were just there. There was no goal. There was no intention or need to know if anyone would ever hear it. It was completely for me and it turned out that people did like it.”
From the start, it didn’t take long for Spirit Adrift to strike a very loud, resounding chord with worshippers of the riff. By the time they released 2017’s Curse of Conception and 2019’s Divided by Darkness (both on 20 Buck Spin) what began as Garrett’s solo project had taken on a life of its own, placing high on year-end polls and filling clubs as Nate and an ad-hoc amalgamation of friends and bandmates brought his songs to volume-dealing life. “I’ve noticed that it really resonated with people who have gone through a lot of significant challenges in their lives,” states Nate. “Which eventually will be all of us.” Garrett attributes this to “a different level of human connection when you’re writing something real and trying to represent that musically.” The influence of “Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Metallica, Slayer and also growing up in the South, really loving old sincere country music, bluegrass and stuff like that” is the sonic soul of Spirit Adrift according to Nate. “There’s blues and there’s bullshit,” Garrett quips, summing up his musical dividing line. “There’s real-ass music and there’s fake-ass music. I was always attracted to heavy stuff but for me Hank Williams was always as heavy as the B-side of Black Flag’s My War. It’s the same thing trying to capture the human experience. Jimi Hendrix only wrote one happy song and that’s ‘Foxy Lady’.”
2020 saw the release of Spirit Adrift’s Century Media debut, Enlightened In Eternity (a split release with 20-Buck Spin in North America); Garrett set to work forging a more permanent line-up for the spirited, energized release. Decibel magazine awarded the band a cover. Said the Austin Chronicle: ‘Spirit Adrift’s fourth full-length gallops through a philosophically epic song set focused on metaphysical awakenings and untapped personal power.” As covid restrictions lifted, Spirit Adrift began to hit the road as a band with a solidified and freshly empowered line-up - bassist Sonny DeCarlo, drummer Mike Arellano and ex-Carcass guitarist Tom Draper - touring with the likes of High on Fire, Yob, Crowbar and Corrosion of Conformity. “Tom Draper is a real shredder, he’s a timeless guitar hero,” says Nate. “He made me really step it up. Metaphorically, we’re trying to kill each other! I wanted to play with him from the first time I saw him onstage playing with Carcass!”
Ghost At The Gallows builds upon Nate Garrett’s already impressive legacy of reinventing the steel by leaps and bounds. While prior records were largely solo affairs, Ghost At The Gallows is the closest Spirit Adrift has come to capturing a band vibe. “While we didn’t track this record as a full, live band, Mike and I did track live with drums and guitar to capture that real, raw explosive human energy that’s imperfect and dynamic. I think it shines through,” says Nate of the studio sessions.
With Sanford Parker at Chicago’s Electrical Audio and Jeff Henson at Texas’s Red Nova Ranch engineering and co-producing alongside Garrett, and legendary Zeuss (Queensryche, Hatebreed) handling mixing and mastering duties, the album takes chances few of Spirit Adrift’s riff-obsessed brethren could possibly approach. Tracks like the elegiac “These Two Hands” or the album’s epic closing title track point to new creative zeniths for Nate Garrett & Co.
“I run the risk of sounding like an egotistical asshole by saying anything about this album,” beams Nate, plainly. “For my taste, I like it better than anything I’m hearing in metal right now. I’m not really hearing any bands really making the exact thing that I want to hear so I’m making it myself. I can’t control what happens when this record comes out but I feel like I’ve already succeeded in ways I never expected. The music is the only thing that matters at the end of the day.”