As a sobered collective of secularists, the Sleeping Village wouldn’t typically welcome a High Priest into our midst. But here we are: praising, with undisguised zeal, the latest effort from these Chicagoan doom-slingers. Such is the power of the riff. High Priest's forthcoming Sanctum is a wondrously enjoyable release, and we’re honored to spread the good word.
Sanctum is an addictive 4-track slab, a well-conceived coagulation of influences. Promo material cites Alice In Chains, Pallbearer, and Trouble, while additionally recalling the group’s genesis at an Electric Wizard show. These are bold comparisons for an untested crew...but comparisons with which I am very much inclined to agree. While the downtrodden AiC style vocalizations and the swirling Wagner-esque compositions are spot-on, I’d argue that High Priest occupy a surprisingly subtle spot in the doomverse. While undeniably (and characteristically) riff-centric, no track here even begins to feel weighed down or drawn out. While melancholic and sorrowful, Sanctum never wallows or loses its delightful dynamism. And while approaching, at times, NWOBHM’s trademark melodic drive, it never feels excessive, nor does it fly off the rails with reckless abandon. In this sense, High Priest demonstrate the genre-melding abilities of Valkyrie, or perhaps even Desolation-era Khemmis. It’s hard to bring something new to the doom game, but High Priest feel remarkably unique in their tempered approach. Bottom line: this EP displays a very modern edge while simultaneously illustrating a variety of sounds that helped define doom and sludge. Not, my friends, a bad place to be.
Sanctum kicks of with the excellent Descent, which remains, to this Villager’s ear, the best thing these guys have ever written. Here, High Priest is firing on absolutely every cylinder. Militaristic drums, decidedly soulful vocals, expansive-yet-immersive riffs that weave and meld with confidence. The twin guitar approach rips with power and precision, and the chorus is an absolute beast. Descent is on course to become a contender for most played track o’ the year, and for good reason.
Beyond this unabashed display of prowess right outta the gate, Creature and Paradigm reinforce initial assumptions. That is, High Priest know how to write a compelling song. As alluded to before, there is little space for stagnation. The tastiest licks and most rollicking riffs are afforded the perfect amount of time in the spotlight. And while that’s all well and good, the latter track, in particular, displays some notably fantastic work in the percussive department. For a band and genre that inherently places such (deserved) emphasis on the guitars, it’s genuinely wonderful to hear such a strong showing from the drummer. Truly a standout performance. Closer Offering, while displaying a certain Troubleing vibe and strong dynamism in the vocal delivery, does feel a tad long. Given otherwise impressive fat-trimming chops, the back half here does feel slow in comparison. As a whole, however, we’re left with a very well executed package.
As riff-worshipers, you and I are walloped with a lot of doom on a daily basis. Keeping that in mind, it’s fair to say that High Priest are going places. Sanctum comes highly recommended. If you need some convincing, listen to Descent below:
As obnoxious as it is to have people stoically refuse to admit that rock is, in fact, not dead, it's more obnoxious still to have a critic point out how patently absurd that statement is. So I'll refrain from falling down that particular rabbit hole. Needless to say, LA’s Void Vator plays some damn fine rock ‘n’ roll with the best of ‘em, and, from all accounts, they've got nowhere to go but up. With Stranded, their new massive 6-track EP, these boys are currently on the last(ish) leg of a national tour. If there was e’er a time to dust out the cobwebs and get back into chorus slinging high energy rock, yer looking at it.
Biographical material indicates a similarity to bands as diverse as Nirvana, Pantera, Megadeth and Foo Fighters. An eclectic mix, yes, yet oddly accurate. Take quite literally any track here--let’s say Nothing to Lose or the dynamic Put Away Wet, for argument’s sake--and you’ll find the best elements of the aforementioned lurking mere inches below the surface. Bottom line: if you want your rock to have it, Void Vator wears it proudly. Short tracks. Grin-inducing solos. Blatantly air guitar-able riffs, which create and subsequently release kinetic energy like one taking a boltcutter to a tightly wound coil. Straightforward head-bopping groove. Aggressively present drums. Some of the more earwormy vocal melodies I’ve heard in a very long while--and this, I mean genuinely.
“Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” riffs Grohl in some long-forgotten internet video. Rock may live and/or die by the guitar, but within the genre confines, a band’s staying power is often dependent on the vocalist’s ability to write the kind of chorus that get trapped in your head for days. Here, Void Vator succeeds remarkably. Take standout track Inside Out, which features a hook that wouldn't go amiss in a newfound single from Audioslave or (the oft-neglected) Manman God. Lucas Kanopa’s classically gruff voice has the golden ability to inflict nostalgia-ridden glee, and if your track delivers a reaction of that pedigree, you’re doing something right. From an industry standpoint, “radio ready” has, unfortunately, become a bit of an unfortunate insult. Stranded deserves a wide audience, plain ‘n’ simple, and they’ve got the potential in spades. This EP's high octane strains have graced the Sleeping Village's halls upwards of 20 times this past week. It's dangerously repeatable, to the detriment of a certain stack of promos.
Critically, the catchiness of each track does depend largely on the vocals. Personal preference, no doubt, but a thicker guitar tone might make these catchy-as-hell riffs a little heftier in stature. There's a thin line between remaining accessible and beating up your audience, but as it stands now, the guitar sounds a tad thin.
Perhaps most importantly, Void Vator aren’t boring. If that sounds like a grossly under-applied veneer of accomplishment, know that dynamism and maintained interest are...startlingly rare. For a genre that has historically gotten by on singles and lots of filler, packing a punch with all 6 tracks is a victory. Let there be no doubt: as long as high energy bands like Void Vator are doing the rounds and writing kickass tunes, rock ain’t going anywhere. Keep fighting the good fight.
Void Vator’s (highly recommended)Stranded was released March 28th. They are currently embroiled in their Skeleton Crew tour. Listen to the aforementioned Inside Out, and check out remaining dates below:
4.14 Chicago, IL @ Underground Lounge
4.15 Louisville, KY @ Highlands Tap Room Bar & Grill
4.17 Memphis, TN @ Growlers
4.18 Arlington, TX @ Division Brewing
4.19 San Antonio, TX @ The Guillotine
4.20 San Angelo, TX @ The Deadhorse
4.21 El Paso, TX @ RCBG Thunderbird
4.22 Tuscon, AZ @ The House of Bards
Void Vator can be found:
As of late, reviewing anything under the voluptuous roster of Kansas City’s The Company has become a bit of a struggle--it’s honestly difficult to come up with constructive criticism to balance out the radiant fanboyism. Young Bull’s excellent Midnight Climax came out last year, but I'll be damned if it doesn't fit the pattern of relentlessly high-quality content, contributing to a certain, well, bullish trajectory. Worth a review? You bet.
If you don’t like music of the pugilistic variety, get ye gone. Characterized by coursing coarse-grit riffs and rhythms that recall Motorhead at their harshest, this debut takes genre expectation by the horns and wrestles it into submission with merciless mud- smeared aggression. Gravel gargling roars punctuate a rowdy, rollicking, and otherwise uproarious atmosphere. With a vicious punky streak and a sludgy swagger, Young Bull is like unto stoner metal as a Panzer is unto motor vehicles. Not transcendent, so much as willing 'n' able to pulverize anything in its massive path.
Given the quality of standout tracks “Horned One, “13 Reasons,” and “Chainwhipped,” Side B tips the scale, resulting in an album that feels slightly off-balance. That said, the break in formula these tracks provide is welcome. Tempo changes aplenty, combined with a distinctly hard-rockin’ and high-octane approach, pave the way to a satisfying…title track. As it were.
YOUNG BULL - Midnight Climax was released June 2018 from The Company, and comes highly recommended.
My music-listening experience this winter has been haunted by an intriguing conundrum. At any given moment I have the option of subjecting myself to a bevy of new music from an impossibly wide range of genres--music that I will inevitably find enjoyable. But an alternative perpetually looms: listen to Sacred Monster’s stunning debut yet again. From a purely mathematical standpoint, the latter option ranks supreme. This album has flesh-rending hooks, and putting it down has been a genuine struggle. The year--despite still in an admittedly infantile stage--has been concretely defined by Worship The Weird, and I'm honored and excited to have the opportunity to share it with you today. For those of you lookin' to get directly to the good stuff, you can find Worship the Weird streaming in full below.
As described in our review/stream of lead single “High Confessor,” Sacred Monster’s aesthetic is a peculiar (and wholly singular) blend of Gloryhammer’s campy exultance, spliced through the riff-centric approach of Orange Goblin. Why Gloryhammer? Despite not wanking around the sonic confines of power metal heaven, Sacred Monster apply a palpable sense of nerdy excitement to everything they touch. When it comes to being fans of weird shit, Sacred Monster is an unabashedly jubilant outfit, and their energy is infectious beyond cure. Joe Abercrombie, Twilight Zone, Stephen King’s Gunslinger, Lovecraftian existentialism, and the general ambiance of prosthetic-laden horror are all on gratuitous display. Goofy it may be, but it’s most certainly not fluff. Despite cheesy subject matter, Sacred Monster are undeniably worldbuilders and storytellers--and, even when those fantastical elements technically belong to some other creative entity, these interpretations are never simple re-hashery. Take, for example, the explicit Twilight Zone worship of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Despite maintaining a firm grasp on frankly ridiculous material, this hard-hitting track takes a turn as its narrator appears...sympathetic? It's all oddly endearing.
Sacred Monster's sound is honestly difficult to describe, due largely to an expansive palette of instrumental influences. While riffage is generally omnipresent and blocky in stature, it recalls a variety of genre, from the hefty footprints of stoner doom to the galloping drive of NWOBHM. Despite a fairly fuzz-free application, the aforementioned Orange Goblin’s aggressive bite-first-ask-questions-later approach is apparent. Meanwhile, the general heft recalls, at times, the carpet-bomb'd groove of Corrosion of Conformity, as well as the bluesy hard-rockin’ appeal of Danzig or Clutch. Because the guitar tone is so pleasantly modern, I almost hesitate to mention Pentagram, but a certain Griffen-esque willingness to gleefully cram riff after superb riff into a track remains a defining characteristic. No question: Robert Nubel, the appointed Riff Finder General, knows how to write 'em gnarly and mean. Nothing here feels derivative, overused, or otherwise tired...and for a band that falls, tangentially, into the stoner doom category, that’s a goddamn accomplishment. Melodic intros and occasion blazing solo reinforce the General as a formidable force. One-trick-pony he is not. Sacred Monster is relentlessly uptempo, and so, not to be outshone, Guillermo Moreno and Ted Nubel--Bishop of the Bottom End and Priest of Percussion, respectively--keep things consistently intriguing. Guitar-centric songs all-too-oft feel shallow, but here, a tangible weight is carried throughout. Sacred Monster contends with some obvious star power, and it is to their credit that the band so clearly operates as a unit. Worship the Weird is relentlessly solid. Stoic, even. There's not a track here that suffers from undercooked songwriting or unbalanced arrangements, and as a result, Side B fares just as well as Side A at delivering uniquely kooky material wrapped in brobdingnagian heft.
Speaking of star power: I give you Adam Szczygieł, The Minister of Screams Himself. This man has an unbelievable range, from the guttural roars of “Re-animator,” to the throat-wrenching chant of (standout track) “Face of My Father,” to the King Diamond-esque wails scattered, liberally, throughout. The vastly divergent vocal techniques employed only adds to the substantial interest, and it is to Szczygieł’s credit that one never really knows what to expect. Forget the thematic trappings: this man is a monster unto himself.
Sacred Monster is wondrously proficient, approaching the madness of the Frankenstein-ian protagonist of "Re-animator" in their uncanny ability to execute an appropriately weird vision. With Worship the Weird, they deliver what is easily the most straight-up entertaining album to lay siege to the Sleeping Village's walls in a very, very long time. In promo material, Sacred Monster invites listeners to “celebrate...the unexplainable and the inescapable; the shapes just outside the corner of your eye. Pay tribute to the beasts that haunt your dreams and their creators. Join with us in wicked ceremony to give praise to the things that lurk below, outside space, and just beyond your door.” For once, I actually believe the hyperbole, and in this way, Worship the Weird is as much of a mission statement as it is a ritualistic command. I, for one, am obliged to bow my head in supplication of the strange. Needless to say, this album comes at the highest order of recommendation.
Sacred Monster's Worship the Weird will be released March 1st. In the meantime, listen to the album in full here:
Speaking generally, I'm the only villager 'round these parts with a particular (read: desperate) affinity for the lower 'n' slower end of the sub-genre spectrum. Something that is a. decidedly not doomy, and b. accessible by design doesn't, then, necessarily fit in my wheelhouse. Describing themselves simply as "an American metal band," the vision of Gods Shall Burn is "to breathe new life into a dying scene." You know what that means, folks: it's 'core time. You know how long it's been since I've reliably listened to the chug-leaden strains of metalcore? I'm not necessarily the most experienced in these testosterone waters. A little out of the ordinary, but hey, sometimes you just need a goddamn breakdown. Thus: "Reborn."
The breakdown on single "Reborn" itself, lest ye be misled, is actually handled quite impressively. Rather than devolving into generic chugs without actually preparing a structure to actually, well, break down, Gods Shall Burn hit with an absolute ripper. Simple yet engaging grooves lead the charge, but the true star here is the interplay between harsh and cleans. In terms of the latter, think the fresh-faced energy of mid-era Of Mice & Men, without the obnoxious filters. These are offset nicely by the growls, which remain surprisingly massive, carrying a substantial heft and displaying tangible grit. As with the genre in general, the low end feels limited in terms of sheer impact, but to Mr. Mammola's credit, the drums carry themselves with a hollow forward-facing weight. All told? Well played.
"Reborn" has been the most repeated track on my gym playlist for, like, a month. Does Gods Shall Burn represent a metalcore renaissance? Doubtful, but I'm genuinely looking forward to some quality time spent with their debut EP, Life After Last, which will hit sometime soon. In the meantime, listen to "Reborn" below.
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry