(Grant Skelton reviews the new album by High Priest of Saturn.)
I frequently come across new doom or sludge bands who only seem interested in replicating Matt Pike’s Dopesmoker guitar tone and failing miserably at said replication. Nothing wrong with worshipping your idols, and imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery. But sometimes we don’t want (or need) a replica. Sometimes we want a diamond in the proverbial rough. Even if that diamond might be a sugar cube served with a hallucinogenic dollop of some kind of esoteric elixir.
Trondheim, Norway’s High Priest Of Saturn are a band I randomly stumbled upon. I hadn’t even heard their name, let alone their music. Perhaps it was their monicker, or the interstellar artwork for their new album Son Of Earth And Sky that initially drew me in. But one drop from their vial was all my palate needed before I yearned for another dose.
Like many of you out there in metaldom, I tend to associate Norway with corpse paint, magick runes, and setting fire to churches. High Priest Of Saturn’s metal is of a different strain. It is hypnotic, contemplative, and introspective. There’s a rejuvenating quality to it that’s hard to describe without having heard their music. Jazz enthusiasts will enjoy the ebbing movements of the instrumental sections of the album. I hesitate to describe any metal album I review with a word like mellow, but Son Of Earth And Sky definitely is. In a world where we fans are clamoring for faster blast beats to the point of inaneness, High Priest Of Saturn offer a refreshing taste of something different.
Many other reviews have lavished praise over Merethe Heggset’s ghastly, echoing vocals. I have nothing to say against Heggset’s vocal performance. But her skill as a bassist has been woefully glossed over. Her bass is the bedrock over which the rest of the music flows. The tone is broad, robust, and…dare I say soothing? Geezer Butler’s name gets tossed about when discussing bass in the doom, sludge, and stoner genres. And for damn good reason! But Heggset’s bass style is reminiscent of Dickie Peterson (Blue Cheer), but more specifically Jack Bruce (Cream).
While I tend to shy away from keys, Ole Kristian Malmedal’s contributions on the organ are essential to this album. Keyboards aren’t just for funeral doom and power metal, and Malmedal proves that on this album. He also plays a fantastic guitar solo on track 4, “The Warming Moon,” which is my recommendation if you’ve never heard High Priest Of Saturn before. It contains all of the elements of the HPOS sound, but is short enough for you to enjoy in a single sitting. Look for an organ-christened jaunt in that song at about the 3:33 mark.
Don’t dismiss High Priest Of Saturn as a throwback. Sure, they’re grounded in the proto-metal stylings of Iron Butterfly, Cream, and Blue Cheer. But this album has hooks upon hooks. Top-quality musicianship, winding and monumental guitar solos, a thriving and symbiotic rhythm section, and just damn good songwriting. To hell with hipsters. I’m sticking with hippies. They make much better music.
High Priest Of Saturn’s new album Son Of Earth And Sky is available now on Svart Records. Links are below. The digital album on Bandcamp is only $5.