Formed in 2016, Chicago’s High Priest mix doomy metal and heavy blues sounds in a way that’ll be guaranteed to please fans of ‘Americas Volume Dealer’ era Corrosion of Conformity as well as those who’ve made it all the way through the particularly lengthy 2CD edition of Jerry Cantrell’s ‘Degradation Trip Vols. 1 & 2’. Here is a band that not only loves a heavy riff but truly understands that heaviness is at its most effective when applied to a strong melody. As a result, ‘Sanctum’ is a must-hear.
At the very beginning of 2016, a doom-blues/stoner trio crawled from the wilds of Cheshire and into the ears of an unsuspecting audience. Amping the blues much further than most had dared, their debut EP presented a cornucopia of heavy riffs; their music a fuzzy love letter to metal’s founding fathers. Almost twelve months later, that EP remained almost unsurpassed, marking a place among the year’s finest metal achievements. A year on, the band signed with Black Bow Records – home to Bast and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – for a well received follow up.
2018’s ‘Ballads of The Godless’ – released through HeviSike Records is, well, heavy. Sometimes drainingly so. However, if you’ve already been acquainted with the 1968 sound, the album brings forth plenty of superb riffs; riffs which, when dressed in the band’s signature sludgy sound, have a timeless appeal. Timeless, of course, if you like Orange Goblin, Electric Wizard, Sloburn and Slomatics. As before, if you’re able to see through the heaviness, it also includes some fine, blues tinged sounds that – thanks to a very old-fashioned production style – are a welcome nod to a world of fuzzy analogue grooves in an all too digital age.
For the purposes of this studio recording, Montreal’s Pink Cocoon isn’t a band, but the work of multi-instrumentalist Zolla Marc. He’s a man who cites a fairly diverse selection of rock and blues acts among his influences, ranging from the predictable Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard, to the more unexpected – quite often, metal based performers won’t take time out to praise Robin Trower, especially when praise for Hendrix seems likely to get more attention. He also name-checks The Distillers and The Pretty Reckless among bands who’ve helped shape his playing and sound. For most stoner practitioners, the musical sphere starts with the first four Sabbath albums, moves into Hawkwind and then goes back to Sabbath’s ‘Never Say Die’…y’know, for variety, so while you’d be hard pushed to hear the influence from Brodie Dall or Taylor Momsen on this debut release, it’s still thrilling to know Zolla isn’t stuck in a musical rut.
At the beginning of 2016, London based doom/sludge quartet Morag Tong released their debut EP ‘Through Clouded Time’. It received some very enthusiastic responses online and in it’s wake, the band were able to increase their profile through extensive live work. A follow up wasn’t especially quick in coming, but just one listen to 2018’s ‘Last Knell of Om’ reveals why. The band seemingly weren’t intent on just hacking out more of the same when it came to making a full length release. The album really delivers on previous musical ideas, but also takes the longer playing time to experiment with a few more progressive and space rock tendencies than before.
For those who’ve not been paying attention, fuzz rock troupe Sun Voyager have been lurking on the Brooklyn underground scene since 2012. After a few enjoyable EPs, ‘Seismic Vibes’ – their first full length LP – really capitalises on their previous musical ideas, presenting a world of haze and stoner based riffs with not only more confidence but also a better production value than they’ve ever had. Those who think “better production” could also mean more commercial should fear not, though, since everything that was great about these mighty Sun lords before remains just as great; it’s just that this time around, the material has more warmth and depth. It’s interesting they’ve not taken advantage of the longer playing time and experimented with longer songs, but just one or two listens to this album should be enough to explain why: there’s definitely something about this material that is more effective in short bursts.