Spiritual Beggars

Mantra III

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For the uninitiated, the Spiritual Beggars are a three-piece psychedelic groove metal trio from Sweden. Their guitarist, Michael Amott, is best known for his role in doom metal units Carcass and Candlemass. With deep riffing and more precision than speed, he is as heavy as any two speed-demon metal guitarists put together. The Spiritual Beggars' primary influence is mid-period Black Sabbath (say, Vol. IV and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath), but they expand their horizons with each record. The band's sound on this third recording differs from its previous efforts in two ways. First, there is the addition of Per Wiberg on organ and Mellotron, Fender Rhodes piano, and clavinet, and Stefan Tsebring on percussion. (Don't worry -- all the teeth are still there, even sharper.) Second, there is the obvious influence of two late American bands on the Spiritual Beggars' sound: Kyuss (the hard rock unit from Arizona) and the semi-legendary Trouble. (In fact, Spice, the Beggars' bassist and singer, sounds a hell of a lot like John Garcia from Kyuss.) Mantra III has its roots in the almighty kingdom of riff. If all these guys came from gloom metal bands, it's not possible to tell from the songs here. This is rock -- hard, heavy rock -- more than even metal. It's possible to imagine Blue Cheer playing this music if that band had been born in the late '90s rather than the '60s. The CD kicks off with a breezy, jazzy, Santana-like intro, which thankfully only lasts a fraction of a minute before the real medicine kicks in. From "Homage to the Betrayed" through "Broken Morning," the tempo is nonstop, full-on, in-your-face heavy rock. The lyrics are as lunkheaded as one might expect -- as on "Monster Astronauts" ("Take me to the river/Dance with the demons inside/Put me in the mist/Wait for the golden twist/Fly me to the moon 'cause we got enough fuel) -- but it makes no difference. It's cool enough that they sing in English and often mess up the syntax. From "Lack of Prozac" and "Bad Karma" through to the bonus tracks -- which are largely throwaways -- the band digs deeper into a groove for its menace. The tempos are throbbingly quick, but they hold within them a kind of funk that only white guys from Sweden would interpret as soulful. It comes off to the average Yankee grungoid rock fan or metalhead as a more complex kind of riffing, but no matter, it's all a great ride, full of crunch, bombast, and the sound of meat tearing from the bone. Get on your bad motor scooter and ride.

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