Sunday, June 2, 2013

High Priest Of Saturn - High Priest Of Saturn


To be acutely blunt and straightforward, in the today’s day, if there is one genre that is extremely overstuffed and wrought with unoriginality, it is stoner metal, and more specifically stoner/doom. Bands with their recycled Sabbathian riffs and Electric Wizard type drawn out song structures have made this a genre of who can come up with the best tribute to the aforesaid bands rather than delving into something new or expanding the boundaries of the genre and its sound in any way and have in the process made the regular stoner sound an extremely monotonous one where each bands sound like the next. Amidst this platitudinous and trivial contention of who can sound the heaviest or who can come up with the catchiest chorus, arises a power trio by the name of High Priest Of Saturn all the way from Norway. One instantaneously clubs black metal with the country of Norway, but they have quite a budding doom metal scene as well with bands like Sahg and Black Lodge having gained international recognition, and more recently Devil with its retro take on doom metal has gained them quite a few admirers.

Some of you may be aware of the band, consisting of Merethe Heggset who is the driving force of the band taking on the dual duties of vocalist and bassist, Andreas Hagen handling the drums and one half of the axework with Martin Sivertsen taking care of the other half and guest musician Ole Kristian Malmedal running has ethereal fingers over the organ. The band which released its self titled debut demo back in 2011, has come up with their first album, also self titled in early 2013. The new albums along with minor touches on the two tracks present on the demo, contains two new songs as well, which together stretch a tinge more than forty minutes. Though the average track length is rather high the inoffensive attitude and warm recording make for a very relaxing, almost ethereal experience.

While most bands fight trivial contests of who can be the loudest or who an immerse themselves the most in fuzz, High Priest Of Saturn have come up with a very laid back style of heavy stoner psychedelic metal. The music that the band play can be described as a portal between the past and the present with one foot firmly rooted in the 60’s psychedelia and 70’s Sabbath, with the other foot planted in the modern day stoner territories with its love for being drenched in fuzz, and still not being derivative in the least. Think Windhand minus the excessive fuzz molded with Spacefog without the aggression wrought together to create a swirling, mixing out of body experience into the atramentous passages only illuminated by torches lit by trips into the psychedelia infused expanses into the unknown. After you wrap your head around this imagine a continuous undercurrent of the organ throughout the release, taking the backstage instead of being the center of attention like in bands like Stonehenge and you have the primordial sound of a power trio collectively known as High Priest Of Saturn.

The band focuses not on a particular riff but instead focus on creating an experience where the focus of the listener is not drawn to any particular facet but instead to the natural progression of each track with its twists and turns. Though mostly trudging along with a slow speed it in an album where one moment you are in the midst of sleepy jam only to be broken by the copious bass of Merethe, and though there are jams dotted throughout the release the band does show a proclivity towards more structured songs. Though this release is mostly instrumental, enveloped in a smoke with mystical purging qualities, High Priest of Saturn is a part of the new wave of doom bands where the leading member is a female and to call her voice angelic or like that of a siren would be gross understatement. It is her performance on the bass as well on the mic that bind the band together which such malleability so as to create an extremely fluid release and it is her flexibility during the vocals that thrust the band to higher grounds of greatness. At times crooning, at times soft spoken, almost ethereal and at times singing at a powerful lower register, she has come up with a performance that has set the bar very high for both current as well as future ladies of doom. It’s not all about Merethe. Though she does add an air of mystery around the band and is the bands most distinguishing feature, it also the axework of Andreas and Martin who without following of trends have set out to create a path of their own with their dreamy guitars and lengthy solos that transport the listener into a soothingly whimsical world of musical therapy. I often wonder why bands that play heavy psychedelic rock never use the influences laid down by the grandmasters of the genre, Pink Floyd, but here the band put that question to rest and play solos reminiscent of the great band including one on the track ‘Crawling King Snake’ which sound like something Floyd would have played during their ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ days.

All this held together by the organ played by the magic fingers of session member Kristian has by alchemy created this unique experience and has had got this band functioning in a territory where not many seemed to have dared to explore. This is as original, and as different as different can get in the modern day of stoner. It is a genuine, frank, straight forward and heartfelt release without the pretentiousness and without the over reliance of paths already well set and is an impeccable debut that is an absolute must have for all fans of the genre.

SCORE - 77/100 

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