Earlier this month I listened to the first advance track from Loyal To the Nightsky, the debut album by a Los Angeles-based black metal band named Highland, in part because this new album features cover art by one of my favorites, Luciana Nedelea. It turned out that the first single, “Abu Sindi“, was strikingly good. And now we have the good fortune to share with you a second song from this very promising album, “Towards the Absolute“, in advance of the album’s release on May 15th.
Highland is a trio of Armenian-Americans — Narek, Gevork, and Michael — who first began performing together in a speed/thrash metal band named Raze. But as time passed they turned their talents in a different direction, building upon the antecedents of Scandinavian black metal from the ’90s, with a self-titled EP in 2013 as their first work in this direction. They’ve performed with the likes of Absu, Vader, Bölzer, and Marduk, but I suspect this new album is going to elevate their profile even more substantially.
As I wrote soon after hearing “Abu Sindi“, the song strikes with clarity and heavy-weight power, and reveals different facets as it unfurls — from barbaric, chaotic ferocity to bleak, stalking gloom. The central guitar melody that surfaces has an aching, heart-chilling quality that’s quite affecting (and memorable), and it brings the song from seething feverishness to the brink of grim majesty.
“Towards the Absolute” proves to be just as arresting in its impact. Of course, it’s produced in a way that gives it the same low-end power and vibrant immediacy as “Abu Sindi”, and the vocals are just as chilling in their cuthroat savagery and fiery conviction.
This new song also benefits from an immediately gripping, swinging riff that surfaces in the middle of the song, bookended by a grim, hailstorm guitar attack and thunderous percussion. More changes lie ahead, and the song’s dynamism in its expression of cold, infernal cruelty is one of its strengths. The fact that it sends lightning into your veins and will get your head moving doesn’t hurt either.
Highland will be releasing Loyal To the Nightsky digitally, on CD, and in vinyl form. Based on the separate artwork created by Luciana Nedelea for the songs on the album, which the band have been posting on their Facebook page, the physical editions should be well worth having (in addition to the quality of the music). Pre-order here:
Highland on Facebook: