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:
Evidently raised on a diet of Twilight Zone reruns, fantasy, monster flicks, and Iommi riffs, Chicago’s Sacred Monster is, first and foremost, a pretty unique outfit. Take the campy and otherwise nerdy jubilance of Gloryhammer, splice it through the sludgy riff-driven aesthetic of Time Traveling Blues-era Orange Goblin, and enjoy the resulting concoction whilst having your molars removed in the damp confines of a medieval dungeon. Ah, hell. Throw in an aggressive vocal tone accented with Them-worthy shrieks for good measure. That (in an appropriately weird nutshell) is what you get with Sacred Monster’s debut LP. Worship the Weird is, without a doubt, the single-most entertaining album I’ve heard this year, and I’m very, very excited for its release on March 1st.
Fear not: We’ll be writing a full review of Worship the Weird in good time. Today, however, is all about lead single High Confessor, which can be streamed below. Taking inspiration from the sneering Sand dan Glokta from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, the track follows a torturer and his victim through the inevitable grisly affair. “Go ahead,” the protagonist growls in his cruelly contemptuous tone. “Beg God for mercy... but He doesn’t hold the pliers down here.” High Confessor is a track that ratchets up the riff-centric intensity--both thematically and sonically--with shameless abandon. The result? A wildly groovy and aggressive ride.
I could blather all day. But let’s get to the music, shall we? Check out High Confessor...and if you are equally smitten, take it upon yourself to check out that pre-order.
Well, this is refreshing. Typically, when promo proclaims that a band represents a "bold new take" on a traditional, well-trod style, you can expect the same: yet another forgettable "revitalization" of a sound and aesthetic that has been done to death, reanimated, and then slaughtered by copycats once more. In the case of Tzimani, the status quo is effectively put in its place. Despite sparking synapses associated with a variety of high-octane hard rock and metal birthed in the days of yore, this self titled debut EP genuinely feels fresh-faced. Pull on your leather, put the pedal to the metal, and smell the gasoline: Tzimani begins with menacing distortion, a rumbling engine of Mad Max-ian proportion.
Modern trad metal works best when A. the songwriting feels like it has been dredged from the past, and B. the musicianship sounds like the result of decades worth of practice. Here, the brotherly duo--frontman Eddie Vazquez and drummer Sebastian Vazquez--are certainly beyond their years in terms of skill. The instrumentality is remarkably tight for such untested newcomers, and the writing reflects an unprecedented maturity. These seem like tracks resulting from years of failure and eventual triumph. Take, for example, We Are the Ones, a blazing number that begs for repeat listens. It’s catchy as hell, with appropriately corny lyrics and a lot of gleeful rock ‘n’ roll presence. This is all due to a predictable structure, but Tzimani aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, so much as play tunes that would have undoubtedly filled stadiums--had they the good fortune to be released 30 years earlier. Drums are tight and precise, the bass is audible enough to leave a sizable impact, and the vocals are surprisingly flexible. Eddie has a decent range, and he isn’t afraid to throw some vaguely Hagar-influenced inflection into the triumphant refrains.
While Tzimani is impressive on all counts, the nail in the coffin of this EP’s success is the brilliant display of axemanship. Face-melting solos, finger-blistering arpeggios, and a Skull Fist’d shred’s-not-dead approach to riffage is worth the price of admission alone. While never flying off the handle or stooping to mere wankery, a vibrant enthusiasm for flashy displays of technique is evident in Eddie’s highly skilled fretwork. The solos absolutely rip--'nuff said. His ability to craft galloping NWOBHM tinged riffs and licks with a distinct sneering competency a la Motley Crue, and the earworm sensibilities of the aforementioned Skull Fist--or perhaps Def Leppard--is truly something to behold. There's definitely a little Maiden in there as well, which only adds to the splendor.
Originality is always going to come into question, and while this all feels necessarily familiar, it doesn’t feel, well, done. The Crue Connection, for example, is most apparent in closer Get Me Out Of Here, which recalls Kickstart My Heart's central theme, yet comfortably reinforces Tzimani’s (already established) trademark: balls-to-the-wall momentum. This track proves that these guys aren't here to let off the gas and coast in the strength of a couple tracks, allowing listeners to flounder in the filler and fluff so often associated with this brand of hard rock. To be frank, there isn't a track here that would seem out of place as a high-octane radio single.
It sounds cliche, but the greatest weakness of this EP is just that--it’s only an EP. When Tzimani drop an album proper, they are undoubtedly going to become recognized as a force to reckon with in the face of revitalized American metal. This monster has swiftly climbed the list into my top 5 EP’s of 2018 (spoiler!) and thus comes highly, highly recommended.
Let’s start Sunday off with something fun. Between the doom and the depressive black metal, we here at the Sleeping Village get, on occasion, a little too gloomy for our own good. The cure for such a self-inflicted diagnosis? Our plague doctor heartily recommended some overt NWOBHM nostalgia...and what kind of plebs are we to deny the good doctor’s word? To that end, let’s talk about High Risk, lead single (and title track) from Blade Killer’s forthcoming debut album.
High Risk is plucked directly from the 80’s. As such, the most common comparison, musically speaking, is undoubtedly Di’Anno-era Maiden. Prominent bass a la Harris? Check. Energetic vocal stylings with just a hint of graceless gruff? Check. Galloping--nay, runaway train riffage? Just let me have that check, please. If we’re talkin’ shameless NWOBHM gravitas, however, Angel Witch, Tokyo Blade, and the ever-fantastical Tygers of Pan Tang might be closer to the mark. High Risk is a track imbued with an undeniably rambunctious energy, a pure distillation of no-nonsense 80’s headbanging glory. No intro is necessary--the guitar kicks right in with a head-bopping enthusiasm. The lyrics, while fairly standard fare, are delivered with a similar gleeful kineticism.
This is air guitar-inducing, chorus-belting, demin-stitching music if ever there was, and Blade Killer’s blatant commitment to the NWOBHM aesthetic comes highly appreciated, even in a fairly saturated market. If the rest of the album has an inkling of the balls-to-the-wall determination of its title track, its safe to say Blade Killer have gifted a worthwhile depository into our collective horn-throwing hands. From what I’ve read thusfar, no worries on this front. Lookin’ forward to Nov. 23rd.
High Risk will be released Nov. 23 through M-Theory Audio.
Check out Blade Killer on Bandcamp.
Some demos are rough ‘round the edges, & that is to be expected--but this statement should, under no circumstances, be taken to imply that Soul Grinder’s debut effort is somehow incomplete or unintentionally unfinished. Rather, I’m suggesting that instead of accepting a certain roughness as inevitable, these Portland-based thrashers tied their debut EP to the mast, broke out the trusty ol’ cat-o-nines, & lashed away until there weren’t any tangible edges left. Terraflesh is a wounded & angry beast of an EP, & Soul Grinder has made evident that they are not, in fact, here to mess around.
Vocals are the obvious first stop on our trip down Soul Grinder lane. At first blush, the wild-eyed April “Prilzor” Dimmick recalls Benatar at her sticky-sweetest. This carpet is promptly & elegantly pulled out, however, as she switches gears into a significantly more visceral affair. On first-round listens here at the Village, our monkish librarian astutely remarked that for any lovers of medieval literature Prilzor’s shriekish tone is like unto the vox of Grendel’s mother: grisly, rageful, tortured. Her true strength, however, is the uncanny ability to switch between a sensual croon to throat shredding howls within the span of a syllable. As the most effortless display of musicianship Soul Grinder has to offer, it lends a certain bent to the entire package. But that ain’t all to love.
Instrumentally, the guitar is clunky ‘n’ chunky, full of hooky leads & (combat) boot-stomping riffs. Timing feels a tad rushed in parts, but that is, undeniably, part of the appeal. As I mentioned several weeks ago, Soul Grinder a just a little discordant, but a whole lot unhinged--& that’s the entire reason we seek out such thrashy ‘n’ groovy tunage. In other words, we’re not here for precision. We’re here for chaos, & in this sense, axeman Alex Avery absolutely delivers. With that said, there are the occasional moments of pure NWOBHM fervor--take, for example, the intro on Hound of Doom, which strongly recalls both Maiden’s trademark gallop & Priest’s leather-clad badassery. Despite the outward appearance of wild abandon, Mr. Kevin Ross does a fantastic job holding everything together in the rhythm section, with drums on the title track worth particular mention. Aggressive & dense, a delightfully bonky moment in the spotlight helps break up the template.
I do, as the critic in the room, have a small bone to pick with the songwriting. The EP starts out with its best foot forward, & is, as a result, pretty frontheavy. Towards the end, it feels like difference in delivery--the singsong chorus on Iron Crone, for example--is what keeps the individual tracks distinct, rather than a more fluid & exploratory approach to composition. While not truly a significant issue here, adopting more break-the-pattern moments might prevent stagnation further down the line. But to reiterate, Terraflesh is an effort where sheer energy, not needle-threading precision, is the name of the game. As an embodiment of heavy metal’s bloody take-no-prisoners ethos, this flayed monstrosity of a demo comes highly recommended.
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry