REVIEW: Spirit Breaker – Human Nature [2017]

Artist: Spirit Breaker 

Album: Human Nature


Humans are a truly bizarre and paradoxical species. We value little more than we value our own existences—our lives both in a social sense, like who we are and what we do, but also our lives in a more broad sense, as in, what it is to be alive. We spend our lives thinking of ways to try and make ourselves last longer and live better—to exist in a manner that one-ups the generation before us.

But for every instance of our passion and obsession with life, we find ways to squander it and take it away. We kill, destroy, annihilate and erase—not just others, but ourselves. We develop addictions to laziness and complacence; to substance and solitude, shutting ourselves away from the very things that might make us feel more alive.

Spirit Breaker, and their aptly named 2017 full-length record Human Nature, are here to change that. As passionate as it is punchy and aggressive—as powerful as it is progressive—Human Nature cuts through the layers of falsehoods and facades that surround us and detract from our lives to reveal the very essence of humanity within each and every one of us. Blending anger and bitterness with beauty and breath-taking melodies in a way that sounds as if someone put Northlane, Invent, Animate, In Hearts Wake and a little bit of the frigid, wintery Detroit air into a blender, Spirit Breaker’s Human Nature truly captures what it is to be human.

Human Nature is wholesome and organic—with the ferocity of a natural disaster, the incinerating aggression of a Californian wildfire and the frigid, crystalline beauty of an ice-covered Midwestern winter. It captures the essence of heavy-yet-catchy and creatively inclined, progressively-tinted metalcore better than many artists could even dream of—better than I can even adequately describe. It begins with the punchy and prominent percussion from Alex Mitchell. Mitchell is intense, but not intimidating; as his work in “Nairomi” shows—creating groovy, fierce foundations for moments of furious heaviness, but simultaneously knowing when to let the soaring, stellar leads take the lead and dominate the listener’s attention. Moments like that—towards the climactic and catchy tipping point of “Nairomi”–see Mitchell establishing his dynamic with guitarist Johnny Allor: a dynamic that defines much of Human Nature. Assist by bassist Aaron Lutas, Allor hits remarkable highs (see “Nairomi” and “Satellite Earth”) and soul-smothering lows (“Merciless” cashes the checks it writes with its song title here) with fluidity and power both. “Merciless” sees Allor hitting as hard as a veteran deathcore guitarist—with added beef and husk from Lutas’ lurid, low bass chugging and thudding along. Meanwhile, “Satellite Earth” is as spacious and atmospheric as its name might imply, with Allor leaving cavernous, ethereal hollows in his writing for the listener to get lost in without losing the vibe of the song itself. Meanwhile, Lutas keeps Allor anchored, ensuring that his drifting and gravity-defying fretwork doesn’t leave earth too far behind. Together, this instrumental trio combine lead-heavy, progressive metal with raunchy, ground-breaking, gut-splitting metalcore (with tints of deathcore influence) to capture a tetra-seasonal ambiance; sweltering heat to frosty, barren winter, with moments of complacent autumn and joyous spring found speckled in between.

Without casting aspersion on Spirit Breaker, instrumentally—while they are incredibly talented—they aren’t anything completely out of left field. They’re engaging enough to keep the listener coming back, but musically, they don’t reinvent the wheel (even though they definitely make it run smoother and more efficiently). Where that changes is with the stunning and thoroughly, 100% unique vocal efforts of frontman Tre Turner. Turner’s screams have a shrill, soul-piercing tone to them that defies explanation; while some might find them an acquired taste, there’s very little denying just how brilliantly Turner’s vocals complement the smooth, fluid dynamic of Human Nature‘s organic instrumentation.

Actually—complement might not be the word. It’s a clash that’s like a trainwreck in magnitude and in visceral, carnal captivation. Turner’s abrasive yells take the pure, floral soundscape and galactic, sprawling atmosphere of Spirit Breaker’s musicianship and adds a ferocious, desperate, thriving human element. Turner’s vocals on “Shadow Radiant” or “Merciless” rip the listener into shreds, taking whatever hints of subtlety and serenity there might be and casting it all asunder. This isn’t to say everything is intense and aggressive—leave it to “Nairomi” to pick off where the band’s previous left-field wonder “Susanoo” left off, adding in a dazzling cleanly sung chorus that will stay stuck in the listener’s head for eons. Where it might sound as if Turner’s vocals are a turn-off (abuse of violent and negative imagery might be a misstep on my end, but I can think of no other way to capture Turner’s powerful presence), they’re anything but. They take what the listener might expect and turn it upside down.

Human Nature is certainly a journey—and it is one that will take the listener to places they definitely didn’t imagine themselves going. “Nairomi” is catchy and beautiful; positively jaw-dropping in its peerless beauty. Meanwhile, “Shadow Radiant,” “Merciless,” and “Starfall” are quick, peppy and pummeling—and the album finale “Human Nature” ties everything together. Cliché as it might be, Spirit Breaker take the listener’s expectations (yawn, another progressive chug-core band with pretty leads) and break them into pieces too innumerous to count, using them to then fashion something that truly defies nature.



For Fans Of: Northlane, August Burns Red, In Hearts Wake, Invent, Animate

By: Connor Welsh