Album Review – Spirit Division “Forgotten Planet” (2018)

Spirit Division

Forgotten Planet

2018, Independent

Independent releases highlight a certain dichotomy growing in the modern music industry. As recording technology and available distribution channels proliferate, it becomes easier than ever not only to release music, but also to find artists for every mood and vibe, ranging from barely listenable mash to hidden gems which stand up easily to better known genre luminaries. In a way, music made a full circle from the tape-trading heyday of the 1980s when many of us rely on word of mouth from people we know, or whose work connected with us in some way, to discover new diamonds in the rough, and to pass on our own recommendations to all who might be intrigued. Where once we relied on the slow crawl of United States Postal Service or local equivalent to deliver tapes to far-off locations, now social media and Bandcamp make it possible to be exposed to artists within minutes of getting recommendation from someone whose good taste you trust, which can then lead you down the rabbit hole. Sometimes, these rabbit holes can lead to very interesting places.

This is the spirit (no pun intended) in which I am examining Indiana’s sadly defunct Spirit Division, and their swansong release “Forgotten Planet” from the halcyon days of 2018. The band plays a loose, bluesy brand of metal which borrows as much from prime Ozzy-era Black Sabbath as it does from the stoner scene as seen through the prism of Danzig’s early releases, topped off by fuzzy distorted guitar work and lower pitched, occasionally atonal vocals which lend an in-your-face, raw quality to the proceedings. It does not require much imagination to close your eyes and envision standing few feet away from the stage next to the smoke machine with a beer in hand as the band plays on.

Needless to say, this record rocks.

The songs generally stay with tempos most commonly associated with doom metal, though there are few moments when the band speeds up (“River Rising” comes to mind). The album’s production, a cross between the raw tones of early Black Sabbath and modernized post-1990s stoner rock revival, adds to the atmosphere, occasionally contributing sinister vibes (“Seeking the Crow Witch”) or emphasizing the primal heaviness of these tunes (“The Light That Shines”). In a way, “Forgotten Planet” harkens back to the 1970s sound, while remaining cognizant of how much the genre has progressed since its beginnings, and showcasing just how heavy these songs really sound without sacrificing the looser sensibilities from the style’s inception. The psychedelic vibes are understated but present throughout by the time the mid-album standout and personal favorite “Behemoth” rolls around with its hypnotic main riff and deceptively sedate, calm-before-the-storm verses transmuting into the heavy groove of the chorus. No matter which track you go to, the songs remain consistently high quality, and form a cohesive whole – even the cover of Black Sabbath’s “Solitude” remains on point and fits the atmosphere of the record.

Bringing this write-up back to my original point, a record like “Forgotten Planet” might not have even been on my radar without recommendations of friends on the social media. Whatever one might say about the impacts of social media on our culture, it does occasionally serve a constructive purpose, and that purpose was accomplished here. “Forgotten Planet” has captured my attention more so than many releases by better known bands, and received quite a few repeated listens during my commute to and from the office, earning a well-deserved place in my playlists. If you have any bit of appreciation for doom, stoner rock, or associated genres, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

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