Saturday, 16 January 2016

HIGH PRIEST OF SATURN - Son of Earth and Sky

This review was originally published on the magnificent Outlaws of the Sun webzine on January 9, 2016:

An intriguing and somehow ominous 2011 demo led to high expectations for this Norwegian quartet's first album. When it was eventually released, I remember one main criticism was that it was too one-dimensional and slow. So how did High Priest of Saturn respond on their follow-up?

By maintaining their carefully crafted identity, that's how. But don't be too hasty to judge, haters. You just don't know the band that well yet. Hopefully they aren't going anywhere anytime soon, so you might as well get used to them.

A careful listen suggests the band's familiar range of tempo is more dream-like than plodding, HPOS wrings every last drop of psychedelic essence from their creative cloth. While some doom bands

'Son of Earth and Sky' is an introspective album, the listener is carried along on a magic carpet through long instrumental passages made majestic through the use of Ole Kristian Malmedal's trademark organ. One lazy comparison you tend to see thrown at this band is to the likes of Blood Ceremony. Now, that's some pretty good company to keep but the comparison is totally inept here. Ole Kristian never treats the organ as a lead instrument, rather it's the smooth-running engine that powers the proverbial magic carpet on its psychedelic flight. While the instrument was right up front on the demo, it's now relatively subdued in the mix conjuring subliminal thoughts and moods.

If you're new to the band and you're looking for a place to dive in, look no further than the deep end grooves of "The Warming Moon" as the standout track here. I can't help but feel the band has hit it's stride here with their second full-length. High Priest of Saturn will never be known as a savage band, they have found a particular niche all their own of contemplative moonlight nights in ghostly congress. 'Son of Earth and Sky' is a succubal massage but don't expect to find any happy endings here.

'Son of Earth and Sky' will be released on February 26, 2016 by Svart Records.

Post-Script: A commentor on the Outlaws of the Sun webzine wanted to know if the vocals on this record were distorted like on the band's last LP. I replied: "I thought the demo vocals were smothered in echo, then I heard the LP and they were absolutely drenched. The production has kind of hit on a mid-point, where they're still echo-y but it isn't as pronounced as on their self-titled LP. Fairly thick echo but not necessarily distorted this time around."

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