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A Genre-Bending Debut from Spiritbox

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Often described with the catch-all phrase “alt metal”, Spiritbox chooses to stray from genre conventions, metal or otherwise. What some critics might call metalcore, others would call djent. Where someone would describe the vocals as rock, others would describe them as more pop influenced. Even the powerhouse rhythm section (comprised of bassist Bill Crook and drummer Zev Rose) cannot be dismissed as your run-of-the-mill musical heavy weights. On their debut record, Eternal Blue, Spiritbox defies metal traditions, claiming their independence from the tyranny of genre labels.

The album’s lyrics reflect singer and lyricist Courtney LaPlante’s struggle with mental illness. Spiritbox was formed by LaPlante and her husband, guitarist Mike Stringer, after leaving their former group, Iwrestledabearonce. Dynamically, their relationship as husband and wife gave way to the intimate songwriting. LaPlante has said that when she and her husband left IWABO, they were hoping to venture into a new project, one entirely their own. In an interview LaPlante said, “Everything we’ve written in Spiritbox is like a moment in time. Like a slice of our life.”

LaPlante was interviewed for the Apple Music release, where she describes her songwriting approach, even the origin of the album’s title. The title of the record comes from a computer virus that was created by the NSA and leaked by hackers in 2017. Although LaPlante was intrigued by the story of the virus, Eternal Blue has taken on an entirely different meaning for Spiritbox and it describes the overall atmosphere of the album.

Eternal Blue is a melting pot of style — djent, metalcore, prog metal, synth-infused rock rhythms are all here. From track to track, Spiritbox plays their hand wisely. Sharp twists from metalcore to melancholy rock choruses are what makes up the bones of this record, as well as drive into the heart of its emotional core. Each song is brimming with life, with some lyrics inspired by personal loss, battles with depression and learning to gain confidence in oneself.

 

LaPlante’s vocals are perhaps the most noteworthy element to the band. Melodic yet intense, her vocals on the opening track “Sun Killer” lure the listener in with an accessible melody followed by the djent-esque riffs in the first verse. That djent guitar sound occurs throughout the album. While Spiritbox technically isn’t a djent band, the riffs and breakdowns of the subgenre pair well against the pop-like hooks.

“Hurt You” immediately jolts you with the abrasive, industrial guitar tones. LaPlante sheds her melodies at first for growling metalcore vocals, until blossoming into the chorus where LaPlante cries out, “I hope you find what you’re fighting for, I am happier when I hurt you. Your medicine is the coldest war, I am happier when I hurt you.” Lyrically, “Hurt You” deals with the doomed nature of toxic relationships.

Industrial influence seems to be relevant to Spiritbox, especially with “Yellowjacket”, which carries the djent riffs over from “Hurt You”. A band like Ministry seems to have a hold on the bands’ musical tendencies, mainly the harsh distorted guitars. “Yellowjacket” disintegrates into breakdown, half-time riffs — a staple of the metalcore genre.

Hints of the band Porcupine Tree can be heard in the fourth track, “The Summit”. Clean, arpeggiated guitars open the song. This track maintains the synth-pop-meets-rock hook elements that are occasionally sprinkled between songs. The choice elements of melodic rock carry over through “Secret Garden”, a gorgeous song that creates landscapes of sonic texture that the listener is guided through. “Secret Garden” also sees Stringer leaning into his prog rock arsenal of riffs. His technical lead guitar elevates the song above the straightforward metalcore sounds on the record. On the lyrical content of “Secret Garden”, LaPlante has said, “Lyrically, it’s me being introspective and advocating for myself.”

“We Live in a Strange World” is one of the more pop-esque songs featured here. The lyrical themes still tread dangerous waters, though. There’s plenty of references to loneliness and depression. LaPlante sings, “If greatness leaves me alone, I know I won’t recover. Erase me, pace me. I’m waiting for the drop.”

LaPlante has said that the dramatic nature of “Halcyon” is why she loves it. This song is also one of Stringer’s favorites. “Circle With Me” was one of the last songs written for the album. LaPlante mentioned that the lyrics deal with the range of emotions she feels about the state of the band, as well as her own anxieties.

Closing the album is “Constance”, which is dedicated to LaPlante’s grandmother who recently passed away. According to her, the lyrics weren’t finished until after her grandmother’s death which inspired the material. 

 

Writing this song just helped me think about the feelings of losing someone, and it’s dedicated to her because she always wanted me to put out a song that doesn’t have screaming in it.

— Courtney LaPlante

“Constance” is where Spiritbox finally reign in the emotional saga that is Eternal Blue, with soft keys playing the song out. Perhaps the closing notes of this record are meant to bring the listener a sense of closure. Maybe that’s how LaPlante feels after unloading all of these burdens.

 

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