Spiritual Beggars

On Fire

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Undergoing a major lineup change immediately following the biggest record of your career shouldn't bode well for any band, but doesn't seem to be a big problem for Sweden's Spiritual Beggars, who manage to neatly sidestep almost any transitional difficulties on 2002's On Fire. The fact that control of the group's direction and virtually all its songwriting stems from guitarist Michael Amott explains much of this, so that even the small differences that appear seem very much self-willed rather than accidental. New vocalist J.B. (formerly of Grand Magus) is coached to perfection by Amott, assimilating (but not replicating) the growling, frothing-at-the-mouth style of the departed Spice into his own, somewhat cleaner delivery, which lends greater flexibility to tracks like the radio-ready "Killing Time" and the oddly '70s Whitesnake-ish "Fool's Gold." Injecting their stoner rock with generous doses of Amott's straight-up metal riffing and classically tinged soloing (natural spillage from his other project, the death metal band Arch Enemy) remains one of Spiritual Beggars' more distinctive trademarks, and along with Per Wiberg's very active organ contributions, these are brought to the very forefront on album standouts like "Black Feather," "Young Man, Old Man," and "The Lunatic Fringe." On Fire does lose a little steam toward the end, but all things considered, consistency really should be Amott's middle name, making for yet another fine effort for Spiritual Beggars.

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