Spiritual Beggars

Picture of Spiritual Beggars

Ad Astra

Spiritual Beggars - Ad Astra ©2000 Music For Nations
1. Left Brain Ambassadors
2. Wonderful World
3. Sedated
4. Angel Of Betrayal
5. Blessed
6. Per Aspera Ad Astra
7. Save Your Soul
8. Until The Morning
9. Escaping The Fools
10. On Dark Rivers
11. The Goddess
12. Mantra

Despite cover art that looks like the interior of any hippie-owned incense shop and a band photo that makes the members look like rejects from the auditions for That 70s Show, Sweden's Spiritual Beggars are by no means a polite, gentle, flower smelling, puppy hugging outfit that wants to wear tie-dye shirts while flaunting the peace symbol. After all, appearances can be quite deceiving since Spiritual Beggars does include one former member of Carcass, which essentially discredits any hippie imagery. So although the band's sound has its roots in heavy rock from the 70s, Spiritual Beggars is an updated, modern and entirely crushing rock'n'roll experience.

Ad Astra, the Y2K release for this Michael Amott project, is a thick slab of undeniably groovy rock that weighs heavier than a Jenny Craig Convention, Iowa chapter. The production of this CD is both sharp and polished and still energetic and as in your face as any bad Tom Green special. The main focus is the songwriting, a hallmark of any good album in any genre, as this band has the knack for writing songs that wrap themselves around your ears like that piece of gum you were storing for later use. Vocalist/bassist "Spice" (Christian Sjöstrand) has a voice that reminds of me Kyuss' John Garcia, only lower in pitch and with a bit more chewed up gravel in the chords. The band also throws in vintage sounding keyboards (an assortment of Mellotron, organs and grand piano) all while giving the listener some of the grooviest, catchiest rhythms and arrangements around. Songs like "Wonderful World", the bouncy "Per Aspera Ad Astra" and the opening "Left Brain Ambassadors" are instantly memorable and uplifting all at once.

There's sometimes nothing better than the simple art of rock music done by musicians with a serious knack for writing stellar songs. Ad Astra is an absolutely fantastic heavy rock record and the first thing I'll reach for when I'm thinking of a Michael Amott project.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2002

Back to top 

On Fire

Spiritual Beggars - On Fire ©2002 Music For Nations
1. Street Fighting Saviours
2. Young Man. Old Soul
3. Killing Time
4. Fools Gold
5. Black Feathers
6. Beneath The Skin
7. Fejee Mermaid
8. Dance Of The Dragon King
9. Tall Tales
10. The Lunatic Fringe
11. Look Back
12. Burden Of Dreams (bonus Track)

Following the departure of vocalist/bassist Spice (presumably more interested in his other project, The Mushroom River Band), Spiritual Beggars recruited two new members to fill his shoes: JB on vocals and Roger Nilsson on bass. The newly revamped band has now released the follow-up to 2000's incredibly enjoyable Ad Astra with this eleven song (or twelve, if you happen to look for the digipack version with different cover art and a bonus track) affair called On Fire. The bad news for fans of this band is that On Fire is no Ad Astra. The good news is that On Fire is still one of the best releases of 2002. It just so happens that when your preceding album is so darned good, you'll be hard pressed to match it.

In any case, On Fire doesn't stray very far from the defined sound of the Spiritual Beggars. The riffing is still thick as gooey jam, the overall sound still reminds one of a 70s band existing in 2002 (yet without sounding a bit dated, which is a pretty nifty trick if you want to get down to brass tacks), and the songs are catchy as whatever flu virus is coming out of Hong Kong this year. New vocalist JB doesn't sound too terribly different than Spice. His inflections and style are similar, although not identical. Rather, he has stayed true to the Spiritual Beggars style and vision. Michael Amott's guitar playing is again very fun to listen to, as he captures groove and melody with the best of them. The music is heavy, but not in the exaggerated form that many 70s influenced "stoner" rock bands tend to dwell in.

On Fire is a very engaging romp through rock's heavier pastures. Spiritual Beggars is good medicine for anything that ails you and despite the fact that radio will ignore this band, is better than just about anything you will hear that is airplay friendly. Sure, this isn't the monster record of Ad Astra, but even above average Spiritual Beggars is better than most.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/2002

Back to top