Dirty rock n’ roll--as High n’ Heavy self-describes their genre of choice--invokes a pretty obvious sonic palette: fuzz-ridden guitar, unrestrained bass, cigarette n’ whisky vocals. It’s a form of 70’s worship that works only if you throw yourself wholeheartedly into the aesthetic, and Warrior Queen is a perfect example of that sheer dedication in practice.
With their latest LP, High n’ Heavy creates the medieval equivalent of a biker bar--instead of leather-swaddled Lemmys, picture a crew of six-string wielding knights in rusty armor. If you’re used to clean edges and keen production, look elsewhere. If, however, you like music that remains as fiercely dedicated to the amp as it is to the pipe...your quest is over, friend. High n’ Heavy reminds me of so many different bands from so many different genres, to the extent that listing them all feels, in many ways, counterproductive to actually describing what they sound like. That said, the unrefined edge of early Free or Zeppelin rears a bluesy head, and the Wolfmother vibes are particularly strong, especially in the stylistically overextended vocal delivery. Speaking of vocals, there’s a little bit of Circle Jerk’s gruffness swirling around as well. In terms of the retro scene from which they have spawned, there’s some Killer Boogie in the occasionally boppy riffage, and maybe High Reeper in the general scummy irreverence. Instrumentally, Warrior Queen takes a doomier bent than past outings, with Mike Dudley’s hefty low end bringing the atmosphere to greater depths, and John Steele’s riffage and keys lending the whole affair a deliciously antiquated glow. And while we’re running through the roster, Mr. Perrone keeps things rock-steady whilst maintaining a pleasing presence in the percussion department.
Oftentimes, rock outfits suffer from an unsophisticated spread of talent--in other words, one person clearly rises above the rest. Not so here. As a unit, High n’ Heavy is workmanlike in that everyone seems to contribute substantially to the final product. That said, the vocals are High n’ Heavy’s most unique trait, plain n’ simple. Ranging from the Plant-esque howl of “Grown Tired,” to the punky shouts of “Catapult,” to the discordantly melodic strains of “Lydia,” the variety Kris Fortin brings is impressive, to say the least. A weak moment is evident on the intro to “Join the Day,” where some heavier instrumentation feels necessary to hold his reedy warble, but otherwise, Warrior Queen’s intrinsic rawness is very well balanced.
All told, Warrior Queen is a highly enjoyable album from an understated band, an appropriately grungy dive into the dumpster of rock and stoner trappings. High n’ Heavy’s raw brand is dependent on a certain love for the fundamentally dirty spirit of rock n' roll, and for this commitment alone, I applaud them. Bottom line? This particular villager recommends you strap on your armor, ready your steel, and try the Warrior Queen on for size. While High n’ Heavy don’t smash genre barriers or present monumental songwriting chops, that’s not why they are here. And frankly, that’s not--and forgive me if I'm wrong--why any of us are here either.
High n’ Heavy - Warrior Queen will be released Jan. 25th from Electric Valley Records
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry