Saint Spirit – “Mea Culpa”


MEA CULPA (2015)Powerful metal from Brazil instantly brings to mind Sepultura, but as I learned last year, there are others there capable of delivering some metal-infused pummeling, like Skin Culture and now I’ve learned about Saint Spirit.  As with the aforementioned bands, drums and percussion play a big role in the overall sound of Saint Spirit as does their host of influences that span many metal genres.

For those interested in these sorts of details, the Saint Spirit Facebook page is in all Portuguese, adding to the authenticity factor for the band, while on their Bandcamp page one can listen to their songs which have vocals and lyrics in English. Thanks to modern technology and Google translate, I can provide some background on the band that might be mostly accurate.  The important details should be correct but some of the text is pieced together.  The band actually formed back in 1994 and has been a “power trio” since 2001.  The goal of the band is to preach the gospel of Jesus through their brand of thrash metal that incorporates influences of hardcore, metalcore, death metal and djent, and to do so in a way that has bearing on everyday life.  Since 2003, the band has released four albums, Against Saints and Sinners (2003 ), The Ways of Faith ( 2005), Reprise (2007), and Vanitatum Vanitas (2011 ).  For Mea Culpa the band has chosen to make a concept album describing the horrors experienced by patients in the psychiatric hospital Cologne.  “The love of God and neighbor are the basis of the Gospel, and this theme points to these mentally ill people who are most often forgotten by the church and society.”

“Solitude Collective’s Train” kicks off the actual song tracks on the album and the precision of the guitar and drums in the beginning of the song immediately reminded me of something from Helmet, which I certainly wasn’t expecting.  The drums are simply pummeling in this song, literally pounding out the beat into the listener’s head and that actually carries through the album.  While not overly prominent or in the forefront, the bass throughout the album also thumps along in a very heavy way adding fullness to the songs.  Vocals are primarily raspy, death metal/hardcore shouted and might be a tad bit too quiet but overall production and mixing is good.  This is simply a heavy album that grabs you by the shirt and slams you against a wall.

Songs like “City of Roses” abound on the album and many have a similar song structure with opening fast, driving parts and then slower verse sections with shouted verses punctuated by short bursts of guitars and drums.  “City of Roses” does have a chorus-like section that is sung and also some more spoken parts that contain some backing vocals that sound like they could be from Zao in the Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest era, which does add some good texture and variety.

The two songs with videos provide a good picture of what the sound of Saint Spirit is all about. “Iceberg” has more almost melodic and groove parts to it than other songs on the album but does provide a good example of the overall sound one can expect from Saint Spirit.  In some ways, the main riff on “Iceberg” sounds familiar, leaving me desperately trying to figure out where I’ve heard a similar sound before.  “Nameless” starts out with some ominous guitar and drums and then abruptly shifts into some faster more technical riffing and the gunfire-like drumming found on other tracks.  The faster, more melodic sections of the song really work well and contrast nicely with the rest of the song.  Looking at the lyrics, native English speakers will pick out some odd phrases, but from a vocal perspective the accents are not nearly as strong as I was expecting given the rampant Portuguese on their social media pages.

“Roger That” has to be my favorite song on the album.  The powerful bass line in the beginning and then the fast technical guitar riffing and pounding drums through the verse sections really keep the song moving at a fantastic pace and having most of the verse sections backed by just drums and guitar adds intensity to the feel of the song and also allows for the bass to have a greater impact when it comes in later.

Given the subject matter, one would expect this album to be dark and intense and it certainly lives up to those expectations, so much so that the listener may not realize just how heavy the album is overall until the bright guitar solo in the last track “Indestructible”.  One listener note is that the end of “Indestructible” sounds as if it is a recording of the patients in the hospital and will likely be a bit unexpected.  I actually left my desk looking for someone who might need help…seriously.

Saint Spirit have released a heavy album both in sound and content.  Sounds are definitely dark and heavy and brutally intense. Everything here fits well, vocals are rough and intense, drums and bass are pummeling and come to the forefront of the songs at times and settle back into the rhythm section at other times, while guitar riffs are fast, technical and precise.  I almost think the album could use a bit more variety in the songs if nothing else to relieve some of the driving intensity throughout, but overall this is a good, heavy album blending elements of thrash, death, and djent  with an essence of hardcore.

Rating: 7/10

Written by John Jackson

0 – Arbalest (intro)
1 – Solitude Collectives Train
2 – Release The Kraken
3 – Pregnant Women
4 – City Of Roses
5 – Iceberg
6 – Volt
7 – Mea Maxima Guilt
8 – Torture
9 – Hellyard
10 – Nameless
11 – Bonsai
12 – Roger That
13 – Indestructible

Band members:
Clamer Lucio – Guitars (melodic vocals in ‘City Of Roses’)
Michel Mixa – Bass
Rodrigo Bizoro – Vocals and Drums

Special Guests
Frank Lima (Maieuttica) – Vocals in ‘City Of Roses’
Daniel Monteiro (Folhas de Outono) – Vocals in ‘Bonsai’
Bruno Max (Puritan) – Lead vocals on ‘Tortura’

“Against Saints and Sinners [2003]
“The Ways of Faith” [2005]
“Reprise” [2007]
“Vanitas Vanitatum” [2011]
“Mea Culpa” [2014]

Record Label: Independent, Jan. 2015

Weblinks: Facebook / Myspace / Reverbnation / Bandcamp

Buy the album here:
First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission

Video for ‘Iceberg’

Lyric video for ‘Nameless’

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