All Songs Considered
10:03 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Viking's Choice: This Heavy-Metal Ballad Will Break Your Heart

At the office, in the classroom, in line at the bank, at your own wedding — there's really no wrong place to play air guitar. But the best spot is on public transportation, when you're crammed into a mass of unknown bodies about to experience the fury of a righteous guitar solo no one can hear but yourself.

Maybe the cover of High Spirits' album You Are Here, which might as well have been conceived in MS Paint, captures that. But not as well as the heartbroken metal ballad "I Will Run," which demonstrates that even in our most solitary, headphoned states, surrounded by strangers, we're all still in this thing together.

High Spirits is the work of Chris Black, a defender of the faith as handed down by Thin Lizzy, Scorpions and Iron Maiden. He's also the mastermind behind Dawnbringer, not to mention a member of both Superchrist and Pharaoh. But with High Spirits, there's a life-affirming quality to every lyric, every riff, every solo. When metal has become so extreme and so dour — and, to many extents, so awesome — it's a helpful reminder that this music can also uplift.

That's just one of many reasons why "One Last Chance" was my favorite metal song of 2013, and why "I Will Run" makes the case for 2014. The fuzztone rocker — that guitar tone hums so sweetly — is all about the bittersweet melancholy of its sing-along chorus, wrapped in an off-centered picking pattern like a warped 45 finding its groove. Black's solos throughout are the kicker, though — double-helix-tracked as he ascends the fretboard and dramatically bends and holds onto the E-string for dear life. Air guitars up in salute.

You Are Here comes out May 13 on Hells Headbangers (CD, LP, digital).

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.