High Priest of Saturn
Son of Earth and Sky
26th February 2016 – Svart Records
01. Aeolian Dunes
02. Ages Move The Earth
03. Son Of Earth And Sky
04. The Warming Moon
05. The Flood Of Waters
The humble fuzz pedal is currently enjoying its moment in the sun. Doom and stoner bands the world over have developed an outright hero-worship of the device, and who better to showcase it than Swedish stalwarts High Priest of Saturn?
Of course, there’s more at work on their new album Son of Earth and Sky, but when a band commits to a sound like this in such a glorious, over-the top fashion then it’s hard not to get behind them. Straight off the bat the record oozes into life, with opener “Aeolian Dunes” starting with a wall of mighty fuzz and cascading fills. The album continues this theme and it’s pretty clear that although the tracks are distinct, their colours are pinned pretty firmly to the stoner-fuzz mast.
The first thing I look for in bands like this is whether they’ve laid their focus on composing songs or whether they’ve elected to go for longer, formless jams instead. For all their fuzzed-out glory, High Priest Of Saturn are surprisingly free from meandering or self-indulgence. Songs are drenched in reverb and similar effects, but they’re all well worked-out, even on tracks past the ten minute mark. It’s a concise album that could so easily have gone in the opposite direction; surprisingly economical, Son of Earth and Sky is progressive whilst being controlled. With music experiences moving towards digital streaming, psychedelia is forced to modernise a little; there’s a lot to be said for a shorter album of around the 40 minute mark that presents varied and successful pieces such as these.
While the fuzz is at the forefront of every track and as hard-hitting as possible, absolutely the standout feature is the vocals, elevating the piece from very satisfying to absolutely lush. Reminiscent of the vocals on Earth‘s latest release, by Rabia Shaheen Qazi (Rose Windows), they’re deep and portentous but still gorgeous. Merethe Heggset, also responsible for the titanic bass tones, is a league apart from her peers; the pacing and mix is more effective than comparative bands like Blood Ceremony or Finland’s Jess and the Ancient Ones.
Some may find this release a little too gooey for their taste, and although it is consistently heavy it never has the edge of nastier doom bands. There may also be those who aren’t as taken by the relative economy and would prefer this to commit to longer songs, but this album has such a lustre that it only feels fully realized when it leans towards being more architectural. HPOS may release something darker and more meandering in future, but for now this is the most successful way for them to realise their sound and their objectives.
As astronomical as their name implies, High Priest Of Saturn have released a gorgeous record which will appeal to fans who prefer tripped-out fuzz to the more devastating malice of Conan or their ilk. Look out for the inevitable Roadburn slots soon.