Ad Astra (Koch)
by Martin Popoff
Man, this band was delivered great and they just get better. Michael Amott has always been a guy that takes quality seriously. Through seminal Carcass material and his top-flight progressive death act Arch Enemy, Amott has built an esteemed reputation, one that has now landed him with Sanctuary Management. Four records in, the bones of a stoner rock novelty have grown hard and sturdy, ready to support flesh beyond such dismissive tags. Ad Astra (meaning “to the stars”) immediately lets you know that we are to gather the image of a long-lost stadium rock act from the ’70s, or maybe one that didn’t quite make the big leagues because they went over everyone’s heads. That’s what I get from lead track “Left Brain Ambassadors,” especially the ending which is one of those big wind-ups you just don’t hear anymore, complete with Hammond organ. “On Dark Rivers” is also a beauty, sporting the greasiest of retro metal grooves and a great vocal by Spice, who has the perfect rock star roar for this kind of serious head music (even if he sounds a lot like Trouble’s Eric Wagner). The touchstone is still Kyuss and Sabbath, although Spiritual Beggars have likely written the catchiest and grooviest Sabbath tunes of all time here, quite a feat when one realizes how many changes or conversely, layers there are lasciviously laced (see “Blessed” and watch the creativity fly).