Zeitgeists are funny things; the amount of influence an idea can have when it is considered to be indicative of a moment in time (even if it isn’t) cannot be overstated. As flawed as such narratives are, they carry force well after they themselves are gone, via the way in which people position themselves in regards to them. This means that the ways in which you define yourself in relation to movements, ideas, or styles that were considered “essential” says a lot about you. Do you rebel? Do you embrace those ideas wholeheartedly? Are you retro or post? These “positions” can have massive impact on the success of an artist, mostly by impacting whether they are considered “authentic” or not. Embrace the wrong position and those who disagree are quick to dismiss your outlook.
Take Spiritbox for example, the brain-child of Courtney LaPlante and Michael Stringer (both members of iwrestledabearonce and, coincidentally, a married couple). Without any doubt, and from the very first notes of opening track “The Mara Effect, Pt.1”, the idea to which Spiritbox relates is immediately obvious. This idea is the type of “atmospheric djent” that characterized a series of releases at the turn of this decade, namely Februus by Uneven Structure but to a much more obvious degree, TesseracT‘s Altered State. Some of the passages on Part 2 of “The Mara Effect”, especially the opening segments, toy very dangerously with the limits between “inspiration” and “reproduction”, carrying several markers that are resolutely TesseracT’s.
But here’s the thing: if you move past your initial gut reaction, which is an understandable reaction to something which dallies way too closely with copying a zeitgeist, you’ll find a rather enjoyable album. Beyond the differences which exist between Spiritbox and TesseracT (and they’re there, if you look for them, on the heavier passages of Part 2, to name just one place), Spiritbox seem to simply genuinely love this style of music. The fidelity between source and descendent slowly becomes less of a disadvantage and more of a strength, for those of us who actually like the style.
Make no mistake, if you didn’t like Altered State or the “atmospheric djent” movement then you probably won’t like this; it plays the genre to a tee. But if you find yourself missing those days in progressive metal and that melancholic sound which inhabited them, then Spiritbox is well worth your time. And hey, those moments when you jolt in your seat and make sure it’s still Spiritbox playing and Ashe O’Hara (bless his heart) hasn’t somehow jumped into your player can be quite enjoyable. I guess?