High Spirits’ endearing sincerity has always been a shining contrast to the often-sour realms of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, and that feelgood brightness is needed now more than ever. While it’s been four years since the release of their last album, 2016’s Motivator, the Chicago project’s fourth full-length doesn’t skip a beat and their established blend of AOR and Classic Metal is well intact. You always know what you’re getting but it’s presented with far too much enthusiasm to ever feel stale.
While Hard To Stop (High Roller Records) is predictably focused on predominately upbeat songwriting, there’s enough variety to keep things from getting too one-note. The opening ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ (Not a Rainbow cover) starts things off with blazing verses and uplifting choruses while ‘Restless’ and ‘Hearts Will Burn’ put their speeds toward rocking shuffles. Elsewhere, songs like ‘Voice In The Wind’ and ‘Midnight Sun’ apply more introspective makeovers. ‘Face To Face’ makes for an interesting outlier as its ‘Mob Rules’-style hustle feels like a Dawnbringer outtake and ‘Now I Know’ channels early Motorhead with its click-clack rhythm.
And with the vocals and instrumentation still entirely handled in the studio by “Professor” Chris Black, it’s fair to say that the musicianship is as tight as ever. His voice has gotten huskier since 2011’s Another Night but natural charisma in combination with effective layering helps make the hooks all the more infectious. A mix courtesy of master producer Dan Swano results in full-sounding drums and incredibly beefy guitar and bass tones. As with High Spirits’ past, the balance between melody and power is unshakeable.
Overall, Hard To Stop is another slice of High Spirits’ signature brand of Classic Metal comfort food. While the project’s evolution in the last decade has mostly been limited to production values and the occasional outlier, their songwriting skills and energetic musicianship always makes for a fun experience. Another Night remains my album of choice, but unacquainted listeners can consider this a worthy entry point. In times like these, I’ll take any optimism I can get and be glad that Chris Black is here to provide it.
8 / 10