If you don’t know who or what Spiritbox is, you’re either living under a rock or this band just isn’t for you. So, since that’s sorted, fellow writer Jean Pierre and myself teamed up again to talk about music – this time, we’re picking apart Spiritbox‘s sophomore full-length release Eternal Blue, which is without a doubt one of the bigger letdowns of this year, in spite of it being a more than serviceable record. Without any further ado, here it goes.
Robert: Hey JP, what’s cracking?
Jean Pierre: Hey, well, y’know, not much, just casually wrapping up the weekend.
R: Yeah, same here. So, are you ready to get this thing going?
JP: Hell yeah, do you want to take the lead?
R: Sure thing. Eternal Blue by Spiritbox has to be the most hyped metal-adjacent release of this year, and one of the most overall hyped releases this year as it is. This is due in no small part to the ardent fanbase and the previously amassed popularity Courtney LaPlante and Mike Stringer gathered through their tenure in iwrestledabearonce. I am pretty disappointed about this album, even though I enjoyed listening to it. What do you think?
JP: Hype truly does set some unrealistic expectations, and I honestly can’t think of a circumstance in recent times where the hype was actually warranted. In this case, the expert-level marketing of Spiritbox has contributed very much to this, sort of inadvertently building a cult-like following that propelled them to where they are now and set some incredibly high expectations. With Eternal Blue, I too felt incredibly disappointed despite enjoying the album a considerable amount. It doesn’t feel like anything more than a well-polished modern metal record to me. It really is modern mainstream metal done right. The hype behind this band appears to make the music more nuanced than it actually is, fooling those blind, die-hard fans into thinking this is the next coming of Christ.
R: I can understand how certain people can be biased by the hype. Not me though – I’m too much of a snob, cynic, and exigent when it comes down to tunes hahaha. It’s definitely a well-made modern metal record. It feels like it’s sort of aiming for the Destiny Potato/Lucrecia/VCTMS kind of angle, but instead mixing metalcore with a more subdued pop influenced structure while adding some shoegaze layers on top. To be totally honest, on paper the idea sounds fucking great, but it doesn’t feel like it’s executed to what its full potential could be. I definitely cut the record some slack because it’s well-produced, even though it’s kind of linear, and because I really loved “Holy Roller” and “Constance”. If you ask me, the record could’ve just been copies of these two songs on repeat for a full hour and I would’ve called it more of a success than what it is in its current shape.
JP: I will admit, “Holy Roller” did take a while to grow on me. I didn’t warm up to it too much at first but now I enjoy it quite a bit, but truth be told, I still don’t particularly love it, as that style of song isn’t what drew me to Spiritbox in the first place. It is a dastardly savage track though; I’d be a fool to say that it isn’t.
That genre description you mention really does sound great on paper, but most of it on Eternal Blue ended up being pretty standard metalcore that we’ve heard a thousand times by this point. I personally wish they would’ve indulged themselves into making mostly clean music nowadays, as when they get heavy for too much in a given song, they begin to sound like most djenty bands out there and my interest starts to drop off. If not that, at least return to the much more interesting atmospheric metalcore/djent style they had back on their first EP from 2017, when I first stumbled upon this group. There are two sides to djent-influenced music, and Spiritbox slowly transitioned from the interesting side of it to the less interesting side unfortunately.
Tracks like “Constance”, “Secret Garden”, “We Live in A Strange World”, and even “Blessed Be” really show Spiritbox doing something entirely their own, and I crave more of that. Seriously, of all the singles released ages ago that ended up on this album, why was “Blessed Be” not on here? Those tracks were a lot more free-flowing, organic, and undeniably beautiful compared to the other cookie-cutter metalcore bangers that they tried to create.
R: I do agree with you on pretty much most of these points, although I only found out about the group at the start of the year when the whole marketing thing started kicking around, or at least so it seemed to me.
I’m definitely on the same kind of page with Spiritbox making more non-metal oriented material. Not that I don’t like metal anymore, hahaha, far from it being the case, but they seem to do a much better job in the clean section, especially with the nice hooks and densely layered atmospheres.
I also can’t fathom how “Blessed Be” didn’t make the cut. It fits so well with the whole mix, and it could’ve easily replaced one of the generic riff machines that make up half of the record. While I’m no fan whatsoever of this whole ‘releasing half the album in singles almost a year before release date’ business, it does seem to be doing bands more favors in terms of traction, and ultimately, they have to do what is best for them.
JP: I feel you. I don’t particularly love that style of album rollout either, but I recognize its purpose and can’t fault bands for taking approaches that help them in the long run. The individuals behind Spiritbox have been in the music industry for a very long time across multiple bands with not much to show for it in all honesty, so their newfound success through Spiritbox is their big break. As long as the marketing doesn’t directly affect the inherent quality of the music overall, which it shouldn’t in a perfect world, I have no issue with it.
I actually sneaked “Blessed Be” and “Rule of Nines” into the tracklist of Eternal Blue because I mainly listen to albums in full and rarely go out of my way to listen to those great singles alone. Doing as such allows me to listen to those songs, especially since they should’ve either been on the album or replaced the likes of “Circle With Me” or “Hurt You”, for example.
I thought I was alone wishing Spiritbox made more music that was less chug and more along the likes of “Constance”, for example; I too say that as an avid metal fan. I could easily see this group make much more captivating music should they ditch the breakdowns and stick to masterfully crafting the most thick and luscious of atmospheres that you could lose yourself in.
One thing that has really irked me over the past year is the sheer amount of Courtney LaPlante’s vocal features you see on so many metalcore songs. If you’re a new, up-and-coming metalcore band looking to get some traction, your best move is to book a feature with Courtney LaPlante, as that alone will bring her fanbase towards you like rabid dogs. She is the Jonny Craig of the metalcore scene in reality. With that being said, her vocal features are no longer appearing to be genuine or an output for musical expression but rather a product for other bands to purchase just to get more streams. That doesn’t sit well with me, but I do understand the financial component to it.
R: That’s a good idea, I’m going to sneak those two in the tracklist as well haha. It makes perfect sense to be honest. Speaking of “Constance”, I’ve been spinning it on repeat this entire time as we’re talking. The chorus and the atmosphere are just to die for. The dreamy vibe and the ethereal textures are so damn good. It even makes me want to skip the ending as well where it’s just more mindless chugging. Like, I really wouldn’t mind the riffing and the breakdowns and pick sweeps and what not if only they were at least half as creative as the rest of the music – it would make so much more sense.
Courtney LaPlante is one hell of a vocalist, which also counts for a lot of the quality of the music if you ask me. As for her features, I was honestly oblivious towards that, and while I do share your sentiment, ultimately musicians are sometimes faced with some decisions that may be seen as odd or counter-intuitive from the outside. There’s too much music out there to concern myself with varying business and artistic decisions that may be made by musicians. At the end of the day, they all do what they think is best for them at any given moment, whether it is or not in the long run.
JP: For sure. I totally understand the financial drive to make some additional cash by doing these features as often as she does. For groups in this musical niche, they need to do whatever they can to pay the bills, as the music usually is not enough to provide them financial stability. I 100% understand why they do this, but I can’t help but feel that the magic and special feeling associated with Courtney LaPlante’s vocals is slowly wearing off with each feature she does.
Back to the music, yeah, it’s hilarious to hear you say that, as I just skip to “Constance” more often than not and play it on repeat; something I am also doing right now, just as you are hahaha. As you were saying regarding the dreamy, ethereal nature of this song, when the chorus hits, it feels like a tidal wave that is swallowing me whole. That moment actually has more of an visceral response on me that ultimately makes it feel ‘heavier’ than any other moment on the album. It is a completely different type of heavy that I am completely infatuated with and crave more of.
Regarding some of the ‘new’ material on the album, there were a handful of special moments that I really enjoyed. Although very simplistic, “Sun Killer” is a jam and a half, and it gets my blood moving. The cleverly syncopated breakdown to the title track was filthy, especially with the string scrapes. What did you think about “We Live In A Strange World”? I was surprised with myself how much I enjoyed that one.
R: I wouldn’t call it heavy, though, but I fully understand what you’re referring to. It’s that immense wash that envelops you entirely and you just sort of give in/surrender to it and ride alongside it until it runs its course. I prefer to simply call that ‘being profound’. The scale and depth of it are reminiscent of how I consider outer space, something that’s profound by just being, without having to do anything else. Something gargantuan that beckons you to drift aimlessly for no other reason than to do it. I guess we’re really splitting hairs at this point, aren’t we hahaha?
Personally, I didn’t care much for “Sun Killer”, even though it’s better than some of the other songs. I guess it’s also an alright way to open the record. I enjoyed “We Live In A Strange World”. I think I found it quite appealing as it kind of reminded me in a sense of Scarlet Dress‘s closer “Empty Breathing” off of Endless: a short, catchy, energetic, and lively kind of thing that feels a little wistful alongside its upbeat demeanor.
JP: Yeah, I totally get what you mean; you put it much more eloquent than I ever could so I’ll leave it at that. “Sun Killer” just felt like an unnecessarily heavy, dumb fun kind of song, and that’s why I enjoyed it a good bit. I don’t love it, but I can’t deny that its a beefy tune.
Overall, I think Eternal Blue is a great gateway album for those getting into metal music in general from the mainstream. It sounds absolutely pristine on all fronts, yet it doesn’t push the boundaries whatsoever for what the genre can do as it was hyped to be. Spiritbox just do simple, catchy-yet-heavy tunes in an effective manner to convert even the most apprehensive listeners to this type of music. For those already deep into the genre looking for the next mind-blowing thing, keep looking.
R: Definitely, it’s a good gateway for the uninitiated and something to glaze over for the ones well-acquainted with the genre. To me, in spite of all its drawbacks, it ultimately stands out as something that’s relevant to a degree solely due to “Constance”. While that kind of pseudo-absolutist statement is not at all my thing, nor is it a statement that would make sense for a lot of records in general, in this case it just works. It’s also one hella album closer, so props for that move as well.