Listen to the new demo song from High Spirits, “Midnight Sun”!
Let’s blow shit up right away by stating first and simply that former Metal Maniacs writer and Chicago-based song factory, Chris Black is a fucking genius. No single person in the last five years has done more—producing, writing and playing—with as little and produced as many hits still waiting to be discovered.
Chris Black isn’t really a “singer,” not the type you naturally expect in a Heavy Metal band anyway, but he has one of the clearest, charismatic and most recognizable voices of any singer today. As a musician he seems not particularly gifted from any technical standpoint, yet his music, maddeningly addictive, has so far refused to weaken after each time listening.
Turn to the other groups he’s founded, from SUPERCHRIST to DAWNBRINGER and even with their clearly defined differences, his mark is unmistakable. Perhaps the only thing separating the man from the genre’s pack of established songwriters is a lack of interest in touring. For Black, Metal remains mostly a private experience (which ironically places him nearer to bands like DARKTHRONE on the spectrum). None of that should cast Black’s music as any more hermetic than the global average, but word does travel pretty slow even when you’re in the van. I guess that’s partly why he just keeps writing more great music, but I’m also starting to think simply “good enough” just ain’t in this son of a bitch’s D.N.A. Definitely makes no appearance on High Spirits’ high-energy sophomore record, maybe the richest concept album ever conceived based simply on following one guy (Black) around town as he deals with his shit and what to do next, packed non-stop with hooks and melodies to keep you banging from heartache to headache, midnight to daybreak. Won’t find anyone else with the honesty and style to write something like: “Do you remember when we said goodbye / It wasn’t just our eyes / that cried together / I’m gonna wait right here and dream of you / And that’ll have to do / Maybe forever,” which would probably win a Grammy if sung by some Swedish broad to a dance beat, but still rocks as hard and true. And so it goes across the board, a sound bred on the best THIN LIZZY and DIAMOND HEAD singles mixed with a little bit of a Punk (The nearest comparison being Dee Dee Ramone but it always sounded to me like Black must also be a big BAD RELIGION fan) turning out proper cuts like “You Make Love Impossible,” “Demons at The Door,” and “Going Up,” continually backed by a bad ass rhythm set which eventually bangs out the most beautiful goddamn interplay of bass and guitar you’ve heard since Heaven and Hell on “Nights in Black.” Then consider that the only person playing the instruments here is Black, alone.
Scanning the Chi-town skyline overlaid with lyrics throughout the record’s pages you know these songs are happening out there right now behind the towers and shining lights, between the concrete, hidden under bed sheets, on barstools and backstreets in the night, every night. As this down and out frustration breaks into a new day, Black questions the cycle that binds him: “Now in the distance / I can see a light / Watch it rise up into the sky / And I swear I’ll chase it / Chase it every night / As the years keep on running by.”
Some quality music was always expected, just how much was the question and High Spirits delivers on every song. But the biggest surprise here is that, despite what’s written above, the vocals—thanks to either Sanford Parker, lozenges, or younger pussy—sound absolutely GOLDEN and soulful throughout the entire album. Another Night is Chris Black’s Thriller. I’m still not sure if that makes him more Michael or Quincy Jones, but fuck it, feels right to add and I’m not taking it back. [TD]
Review from Chips & Beer Mag #2 [Sold Out]
Bury the Light
Cruz del Sur
Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’… Old guard here doing old Heavy Metal the old new way, infusing mid-period JAG PANZER (see/ hear Thane to the Throne; Mechanized Warfare) with old key-/synth-heavy CAMEL, RUSH, or even old YES or older SOFTMACHINE. Sounds old—but new. Very new. Like maybe how Rush’s Grace Under Pressure would’ve sounded to folks had it been released in 1974 instead of 1984. Sounds oddly unappealing, I know, but it aint at all, and these signposts do slight disservice to music so carefully crafted and indifferent to trend. If there’s something else out there that sounds like this, I haven’t heard it yet, which makes most sense Chris Black (HIGH SPIRITS, SUPERCHRIST, DAWNBRINGER, et al) is involved, as the guy has his hand in anything remotely reeking of undeniable vision, passion, authenticity these days. Black’s there in the back on the drum-throne, doing his human metronome bit, almost to the point of sounding fucking programmed to propel (cruise-control style), and accent tastefully when called for. Axeman Matt Johnsen does the ex uno plura thing, becomes many riffs from one, never too much, always just enough. Lotsa times where Pharaoh does that acrobatic prog shit YES’ early records did (viz., Fragile, Close to the Edge) almost as well as BILLY COBHAM’s Spectrum, especially here on “Castles in the Sky,” “Leave Me Here to Dream,” and “Graveyard of Empires.” Flipside is unambiguous Alex Lifeson worship with “The Year of the Blizzard,” or “The Spider’s Thread,” which both coulda found happy home on 2112. Only complaint is this wasn’t around for me to listen to while lost in Heavy Metal magazine’s sci-fi TNA orgy some 30 years gone by. [SV]
Review from Chips & Beer Mag #3
Dawnbringer’s Chris Black on writing and making music:”I’m not sure it’s a matter of pressure or really even inspiration. I have the freedom and flexibility to manage my own schedule, and I have faith in Heavy Metal. I just say to myself, OK, here we go. Time to rock.”
Interview in Chips & Beer The Magazine #3.
Not just another night. MIDNIGHT’s masked sleaze-masters got the jump on ‘em early last year, but Superchrist’s Holy Shit leaves little doubt who the reigning kings of uncomfortable are. Not many better than Chris Black and the boys to help let your dark side shine and they don’t waste time taking up torches on “Run to the Night,” a macabre-humored number about a serial killer who’s not just out to help himself (“And once the deed’s done, you’re not just anyone. You don’t know how lucky you just got”). Punked up, epic Metal-rock that rocks the dirt on “Take Me to The Graveyard” and just plain dirty with “Sewer Snake,” where Black persuades his lady friend to finally give in to what Norman Mailer called “The Italian Solution.” The band thrusts through loose strip club blues stomp while singing Diceman’s version of Dr. Seuss (“So take another twist, and chase it with a fist.”), and ups the ante all around with brother Hank Bitchlover’s righteous leads, Ian Viper doing the Nicko-McBrain-locked-inna-confessional-booth on“Black Thunder,” and Black dressing Dee Snider in a devilock with street-fighting anthem, “Hot Tonight.” Superchrist. Holy Shit. Ten more reasons to say, “Forgive me fadda, for I have sinned.” [TD]