Spiritbox – Eternal Blue
Released: September 17, 2021
Courtney LaPlante // Vocals
Mike Stringer // Guitar
Bill Crook // Bass
Zev Rose // Drums
It seems like the hype surrounding Canada’s Spiritbox just appeared out of nowhere, but rest assured, the band have been cautiously planning their world domination since 2016 and finally we get to hear their highly-anticipated debut album Eternal Blue, which has been teased and taunted in front of fans for the better part of the past two years. With delays getting in the way of release and stellar single after stellar single – the time has finally come to see what they’ve been sitting on – and if it was well worth the wait…
‘Sun Killer‘ kicks the celebrations off and we’re met with a thumping bass and alluring synth in the background that take us up to a killer Zev Rose drum beat and frontwoman Courtney LaPlante‘s now iconic vocals. There’s djent, there’s haunting clean vocals (reminiscent of early nu-metal Evanescence) and a rather impressive stop down featuring Courtney whispering ‘Sun Killer sing me to sleep’ over and over again that sets you up for what can only be described as a pulse wave to the face when the breakdown erupts and Courto swaps whispering for screams. The heavy undertones roll straight into ‘Hurt You‘ and so do the screams with their nu-metal/core-esque delivery. Mike Stringer has perfected that signature guitar tone which we have all grown to love in each and every Spiritbox song that’s been released. It’s one of those things that when you hear it, you know you’re listening to a Spiritbox song and that’s such a fantastic attribute to have this early into a band’s career because it means instant recognition! There’s yet another filthy breakdown that will surely melt faces upon first listen, but I can’t help but imagine how gooood it’ll sound in a live setting!
‘Yellowjacket‘ sounds like a fucking djent/industrial metal orgy made complete by its Sam Carter (Architects) addition. He yells, he sings, he duels back and forth with Courtney throughout and is more of a feature artist for the entire song rather than a one-verse cameo collaborator. It’s strange ground because over the past year or so, we’ve seen bands featuring collaborations on their tracks with small vocal changes that pack a punch; however, afterwards the band are straight back into doing what they do best on their own. This is almost a complete song with Spiritbox and Carter together (nearly) from start to finish and I just dunno how I feel about that on a debut album. I may come to eat my own words for this statement down the track, but that’s just my initial reaction with this one. It wasn’t what I was expecting and maybe that’s what has thrown me!
Either way, it’s open for interpretation and opinion, so let me know what you think when you get around to hearing it for yourself…
‘The Summit‘ slows things down and shines a spotlight on LaPlante’s clean vocals which (at times) are drowned out by the guitar tones – especially around the chorus, but don’t let that get you down, the track is a beautifully crafted piece of music that is addictive and will keep you coming back for more.
The thing that Spiritbox does so well is their heavy ‘core’ songs BUT they also nail their melodic anthems with class and precision (when the mixing is perfect). ‘Secret Garden‘ is another great example of this – it’s technical, atmospheric and heavy without the need for breakdowns.
Upon release as a single, Courtney reminded fans that the band were still finding their feet and experimenting with certain sounds and pathways they could take Spiritbox:
“I realize as we continue to release music in single format, listeners can start to assume what kind of band we are, and are alarmed when we do not meet those assumptions. I want to continue to showcase the fluidity that is inherent in heavy music, and even though this is just one part of a full body of work that may not sound exactly like this song, it is a song that we love and are obsessed with. I celebrate variation…”
That statement alone stopped a hoard of gatekeepers from assuming how this band could and should sound, and reminded us that we are merely on the receiving end of this group’s musical journey and we shouldn’t expect just another typical metalcore/djent-filled album. I think because of those words and hearing the song countless times since release, it really set up the expectations of this album and made me (personally) appreciate the vast styles/genres more. With all this talk of softer songs, I wasn’t ready for the assault on my senses that came when ‘Silk In The Strings‘ proceeded to play through my speakers. Up-tempo instrumentals, screams, growls and blastbeats galore make this one a certified banger for the metalcore fans in the house.
There is nothing else I can add that you already don’t know about ‘Holy Roller‘. From the day this song was released, that’s when the Spiritbox frenzy truly began. It ticks so many boxes and could almost be described as the perfect song and here we are, over a year later and it’s still in my Top 5 On Repeat list on Spotify. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of this masterpiece and it’s even got me attempting my own growls and screams after trying to mimic Courtney’s various styles throughout.
Title track time baby! ‘Eternal Blue‘ boasts some of the album’s best instrumentals (since ‘Holy Roller‘) and is certainly going to be a fun one for the band (and fans) at shows. The way Bill Crook (bass), Mike and Zac bounce off each other showcases a musicianship where each member totally understands the other’s purpose. The guitar solo is an unexpected, yet delightful touch and I can see why this song best represents the album as a whole (without the need for bellowing screams of guttural). I was wondering if the band would try and jump on the success of BMTH‘s successful dive into EDM/synth/rock territory and it eventually came with ‘We Live In A Strange World‘. The song starts off with an electronic drum beat and EDM sounds accompanying Courtney’s melodic vocals but about halfway through, the floodgates open up and we’re back in djent/core world. A nice tease (if you will) showing that you don’t have to completely follow a certain trend, you can sample it before transitioning back to familiar ground and still maintain your originality in the process. Well done Spiritbox, that caught me off guard and I loved it.
‘Halcyon‘ has this kind of ebb and flow that makes you sway whilst listening to it. It’s kinda like a heavy ballad, that carries you along carefully from the start before throwing you off a cliff when the breakdown hits in its final moments and goddddamnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn girl, you’re not ready for it to smack you in the face! I’m glad it’s been a few tracks since we last heard a breakdown because it truly makes the listening experience more enjoyable and unpredictable. ‘Circle With Me‘ is just pure fun from beginning to end with the ever-changing tempo, fat as butter djent and crisp melodic vocal performance from Mrs LaPlante which I truly hope inspires a new generation of female/non-binary performers to reach deep into their souls and attempt their own style of screaming (get some tips from Courtney herself here). If the band wanted to end with this song, I wouldn’t complain, but they’ve saved the saddest experience for last.
‘Constance‘ is a fantastic album closer for this release. The previous 11 songs have taken us on a journey of highs and lows throughout, but nothing can prepare you for one of the most emotionally driven songs ever released. We know the story about how this song was inspired by Courtney’s late Grandmother Phyllis and her battle with dementia, but the music video’s director Dylan Hryciuk also had a Grandmother going through a similar battle of her own – her name; Constance! A touching dedication from the band which has now resulted in the song becoming a nurturing soundtrack for those who have experienced something similar in their own lives.
You may find yourself wiping away tears when you reach the end of Eternal Blue, but that’s because Spiritbox have crafted this incredible album that connects with the listener on an emotional level and takes them on a journey of self-discovery, empathy and overcoming. This isn’t just a debut album, it’s going to become a staple listening experience for anyone who needs a momentary release from the struggles of reality and their lives.
Spiritbox – Eternal Blue tracklisting
1. Sun Killer
2. Hurt You
3. Yellowjacket feat Sam Carter
4. The Summit
5. Secret Garden
6. Silk In The Strings
7. Holy Roller
8. Eternal Blue
9. We Live In A Strange World
11. Circle With Me
Keep your eye out for my interview with Courtney chatting all things Eternal Blue right here