Spiritual Beggars - Return To Zero
InsideOut Music
Stoner Metal
13 songs (51:07)
Release year: 2010
Spiritual Beggars, InsideOut Music
Reviewed by Khelek

Spiritual Beggars is one of the longest running stoner metal outfits out there, starting out as a side project of well-known guitarist Michael Amott. This album is the first from the band in five years and features a new but experienced vocalist in Apollo Papathanasio of Greek power metal band Firewind. I see this album is an attempt by the band to not only go back to their roots, but also to sort of explore some different directions and change things up a bit. As such it often uses the same style of groovy riffing and retro style keyboards as they have in the past, although it also takes some darker and slower twists and turns that hearken back to the band's doom metal influences.

After a short intro, Lost In Yesterday doesn't impress me right off the bat. It's the typical Spiritual Beggars formula of catchy guitar that has been done a hundred times before. It's not a bad song, but it’s been done too many times by this band to do much for me. It does give me a good feel for Apollo's vocals, which are quite good and remind me of some 80's doom acts. Star Born is the same way. The Chaos Of Rebirth sounds a bit more aggressive and more "metal" to me, reminding me somewhat of recent work from older bands, i.e. Heaven And Hell, Dio, etc. that promotes a dark, almost foreboding feeling with very listenable guitars and backing keyboards. We Are Free really catches my attention with its heavy guitars and anthem-like chorus. This is just pure rock and roll energy and it's what I want to hear from this band. The keyboards also accent the guitars nicely here, though the guitar solo doesn't impress me nearly as much as it should. Spirit Of The Wind is a pretty good slower, almost ballad track. It creates a good atmosphere and uses plenty of melody but doesn't throw it in your face, more subtle. My only complaint is that it can begin to wear on you after the first 4 minutes or so (it's close to 6 total). The soloing here is quite memorable and helps promote this distant, otherworldly atmosphere. Concrete Horizon opens pretty powerfully with pounding drums and thick riffs once again accented by keyboards. It's a longer track but doesn't bore me as some longer, more repetitive songs in this genre can. The Uriah Heep cover at the end is excellent. Apollo gets to use a bit more of his range here and it's just a great heavy metal song that the band puts their own spin on.

This album gets off to a slow start, but the songwriting talents of the band really start to come through in the second half, providing some very enjoyable and memorable music. I am also glad to see the band writing material that still incorporates the sounds they are known for (notably the keyboards and catchy, old-school heavy metal riffs) yet stays away from copying their past work too much. I also really like the vocals from new frontman Apollo. They don’t differ all that much from past Spiritual Beggars' singers, so they fit the music quite well while also bringing something new to the sound. I'll admit I was unimpressed with Amott's guitar playing on this album. He is capable of so much more than what is presented here, although in some ways I guess this is his way of getting away from doing the more technical stuff and just being able to relax and have fun, which I can understand. Occasionally there is a striking solo or two, but other than that not much to be impressed by technically. In the end I actually found this album to be very enjoyable. While not as instantly memorable as say Ad Astra, this is a solid album that shows these guys still have what it takes to write something new and not simply rehash their old material. Hopefully they won't wait another 5 years to release their next album.

Killing Songs :
We Are Free, Spirit Of The Wind, Concrete Horizon, Believe In Me
Khelek quoted 83 / 100
Other albums by Spiritual Beggars that we have reviewed:
Spiritual Beggars - Ad Astra reviewed by Khelek and quoted 94 / 100
Spiritual Beggars - On Fire reviewed by Danny and quoted 95 / 100
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