High Priestess – Casting the Circle (Album Review)

The haunting Los Angeles Doom trio High Priestess are back with their sophomore album Casting the Circle on Friday, April 10th, 2020 through Ripple Music.

For those needing a refresher, the story of High Priestess begun in 2016, when through an online advertisement, Mariana Fiel (bass/vocals) connected with Katie Gilchrest (guitar/vocals) and Megan Mullins (drums). With the lineup rounding out, the three ladies would get right to polishing their sound – first putting together a demo, then signing on with Ripple Music, re-releasing their demo as a self-titled album in 2018, then honing in a following through more live performances, and now returning with the highly anticipated Casting the Circle. 

Showing growth over that timeline, High Priestess bottles a new energy for Casting the Circle; first deciding to perform the songs live before even laying down the records. Distributing this energy across five exquisite movements, eschewing some of the more aggressive measures for lighter, this new LP frankly offers even more terrifying tracks then their prior outputs.

For example, the opening and title-track – often used to warm crowds for High Priestess shows – is a low, slow, winding introduction to the magic ahead, while also serving as the closest reach back to the debut album. Plucky, “Erebus” follows as slightly haunting cut that takes the deliberate turn down a darker path. With warbled lead vocals quickly joined with a backing chorus, it is cemented by guitar solos that pepper the middle portion of the track.

Then there is drippy psychedelia on “The Hourglass” which features overlapping vocals that keep the vibe relatively smooth. “Invocation,” the penultimate track, enters the room with a bizarre carnival atmosphere before departing with the heaviest progressions on Casting the Circle. Furthermore, it is also the most prototypical of the deep, dark Doom Metal genre. Lastly, the album closer “Ave Satanas,” known more familiarly in English as ‘Hail Satan,’ is a sparse but powerful flourish. In fact, it is a piece which leaves you to ponder where on the scales of light and dark the members of High Priestess lie.

More than an album, Casting the Circle is a subtle, shape-shifting incantation, assembled in five parts that draw you in. Its forty-three minutes blow by entirely too quickly, yet feel like a rapt eternity in the moment. Each of its five tracks can stand as its own ritual, but the transitions between them are seamless. That said, the sum total is a frightening introduction into some darker melodies and themes far more compelling than High Priestess has ever explored prior.

Compared to their debut, Casting the Circle has a determined focus, and the heavy portions are sparse in favor of an overall feeling of doom and treachery. A strong return, Cryptic Rock gives Casting the Circle 4 out of 5 stars. 

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