When The Afghan Whigs reunited five years ago, it was anything but a typical cash-grab nostalgia trip; it was more or less a matter of picking up where they left off, considering their exit felt a little premature to begin with. That wasn't due to the usual rock and roll cliches but was rather a matter of geographical distance between band members and exhaustion after settling a legal dispute with their former label.

Likewise, their first post-reunion album Do To The Beast, released two years later, felt equally justified and found them less interested in rehashing their glory days and more interested in building off of their sound and rightfully moving forward. Missing from the proceedings was co-founder and lead guitarist Rick McCollum, who left the band before they began recording. And though he wasn't solely responsible for shaping their sound, it was his innovative leads that played a major role in shaping their unique mix of everything from funk and R&B to soul and grungy rock. His absence on Do To The Beast was definitely noticeable, and it left some questioning whether it was even still The Afghan Whigs without him.

The skepticism is understandable considering that album consisted of singer Greg Dulli and long time bassist John Curley with an ensemble of musicians, while this time the In Spades line-up is rounded out by some of Dulli's Twilight Singers bandmates. Now the debate as to who they sound more like without one of their driving forces has more or less become tiresome.

Despite the familiar elements its sound is built from, what's especially impressive about In Spades, is how it doesn't really sound like anything the band has done before. Their sound was always equally driven by the vision of Greg Dulli and it greatly benefits from it, as he has written what are arguably some of the best song of his career, and this new Afghan Whigs sounds even tighter and leaner here. 'Copernicus' and 'Arabian Heights' in particular chug with the same muscular drive of some classic-era Whigs songs.

Though he never found time to make a feature film, Greg Dulli has taken what he learned as a film student at the University of Cincinnati and has put it to good use throughout his career; In Spades finds him at the peak of his ability to coax and build the kinds of emotions you experience from sitting in front of the widescreen. The menacing piano on 'Demon In Profile' sets the tone, and from there the song builds an air of deceit and regret around itself before gradually working its way towards a bittersweet climax of horns and guitars that climb and build until they begin to gradually unravel, leaving only a few lone piano notes lingering in the air.

Those same horns reappear throughout the album but are used to a devastating and beautiful effect coupled with an unbridled Dulli vocal take on 'Toy Automatic', one of the most uplifting songs the Whigs have ever written. On 'Oriole', the combination of string arrangements, ghostly harmonies, and Dulli's pleading vocals all add to the sense of suspension welling up from the surface. Meanwhile, the psychosexual 'Light as a Feather' stands as one of the funkiest and most playful things the Whigs have laid down since their glorious premature swan-song, 1965.

In Spades reaches its arguable emotional peak by the end, beginning with the heartwrenching piano ballad 'I Got Lost', which settles into a heavy-footed, waltz-like time signature full of remorse and longing. This gives way to the sweeping and melodramatic 'Into the Floor', which eventually topples over into a brilliant and beautiful mess of emotions.

It's a jaw-dropping conclusion to an already impressive album that both solidifies their reputation as one of the more compelling bands to come out of the 90s alternative landscape, and cements their reunion as one of the few necessary ones that are currently happening. Barring their premature split, they've been around for 31 years. How many bands can you stop and think of that have been around for that long and still continue to make music as challenging and thrilling as this? Not many can pull it off but, The Afghan Whigs do.