May 19, 2018 High Priestess – High Priestess (Album Review)
High Priestess formed in 2016 in the Los Angeles, California area. Featuring Bassist Mariana Fiel, Drummer Megan Mullins, and Guitarist Katie Gilchrest, the band mixes haunting vocals from both Fiel and Gilchrest to entrance the listener as Mullins guides a slow march to far reaches of consciousness.
A self-produced five-song demo was recorded in 2017 and began making the rounds, though recently Ripple Music has stepped in to re-release the demo as a proper debut album on Friday, May 18th, 2018 adding a sixth song (“Banshee”) and distinctive cover art from California artist Caitlin Mattisson.
“Firefly” opens things as a droning ten-minute tribute to some of the doom bands formed in Northern England throughout the nineties. Specifically, the song sprawls across the earliest reaches of Merseyside legends Anathema, in particular “Eternal Rise of the Sun.” Here, the track basically repeats itself, but High Priestess, as only the best doom bands can, make the passed time feel like thirty seconds, as the hook is both memorable and sustainable.
“Despises” branches into darker territory, with vocal scowls covering driving bass, peppering smaller interludes of quiet that bring valleys to the aggressive peaks. New track “Banshee” takes a trip into Black Sabbath territory with taut tribal drums adding trepidation to the looping bassline, crashing guitars and more guttural snarls. The track switches easily between low-slung, low-sung vocal harmonies and loud foreboding vocals, eventually culminating in more well-timed screams. “Mother Forgive Me” continues this vibe later, trading bonafide whispering for ethereal high pitches and lamented yells.
“Take the Blame” is a foray into stoner/psychedelia, replete with vocal portions backed only by drums and the smallest of guitar, proving that High Priestess can deftly cover the entirety of the Doom/Stoner/Garage genre without sounding tired or stretched thin. The lyrics eventually take a back-seat as the guitar becomes the chief vocal machine in the latter half of the track. The album closes with “Earth Dive,” a slow, plodding trip that bookends the long, winding path of the opener, while reaching greater density on instrumentation.
There are several interesting musical ideas here, and it is clear the trio are well-read students of the genres they span. The lush melodies will only improve as the trio continue to tour and write together. While their genre bending is impressive, the wide assortment of themes and directions leave open the possibility that a slightly more focused effort could allow the band to run deeper on each track. For these reasons, CrypticRock give High Priestess’ self-titled release 3.5 of 5 stars.