March 18, 2019 High Reeper – Higher Reeper (Album Review)
High Reeper, veteran rockers from the Delaware Valley, are set to release their latest full-length record, Higher Reeper, March 22nd through Heavy Psych Sounds.
The extra syllable is meant to draw a line between this record and their eponymous debut, released last year through the same label. Formed in 2016 by Vocalist Zach Thomas, Drummer Napz Mosley, Guitarists Andrew Price and Pat Daly, along with Bassist Shane Trimble, the band initially had no aspirations to take their music beyond the garage and the recording studio. Their impressive licks and tasty grooves soon convinced the quintet to share their music in a live setting.
Now featuring Justin DiPinto on drums, formerly of Malevolent Creation as well as Philadelphia nomenclature legends Insatanity, Higher Reeper is a fitting follow up to their 2017 album, High Reeper. Eight tracks in total it begins with “Eternal Levaithan,” the first of a few biblical mentions turned on its head. The pace is set quickly and firmly: the band drinks deeply from the tap of Black Sabbath–in particular the guitar stylings of Tony Iommi and the plodding bass work of Geezer Butler–but the vocals and song structures are on slightly different planets. This opening track is the first of many instances where the late Vocalist Andrew Wood of pre-Grunge legends Mother Love Bone could be marked as an influence.
The two following tracks, “Buried Alive” and “Bring the Dead,” could double for cover versions of each other. The pace of “Bring the Dead” is faster, but it ends up sounding like a sped-up version of its predecessor. Heavy Psych has released a video for “Bring the Dead,” using a red filter to capture the band performing in a damp dingy basement. While the outing was clearly staged for filming, the experience fits perfectly with the vibe the band is projecting: our recordings are strong, and our live performances are even better.
Moving on, “Apocalypse Hymn” is a slow, depressing ballad that shows the band can set a grim tone with fewer tricks and instrumentation. There are some echoing vocal effects and layer guitars used here, but the track is a sparse dirge that keeps the overall tone of the album while also putting the brakes on the otherwise frantic pace of the rest of the album. The aptly titled “Foggy Drag” begins the slow climb of ramping up the pace back to breakneck speed, which is then achieved in the following track. “Obsidian Peaks” contains what may be the most diuturnal riff of the album; it first appears alone, hauntingly outpacing the heavy intro, then subtly stalks the listener throughout the length of the track, building in volume and aggression.
Thomas has described the first half of the album as ‘chaos,’ with the second half of the album covering the subsequent ‘aftermath.’ Unfortunately, this proves to be true, as the album seems to lose a bit of steam on the back half, outside of the towering “Obsidian Peaks.” Furthermore, “Plague Hag” and “Barbarian” begin to blend together with some of the foundation laid by earlier tracks, despite the some strong guitar work toward the end of the latter. One aspect that seems to improve as the album moves along is the bass work; never weak or lacking, it nevertheless takes more of the spotlight as the album comes to a close.
Packaged with striking artwork from Solo Macello, known for his work with Sleep and High on Fire, as well as other Heavy Psych outfits, Higher Reeper is sure to satisfy attendees of the Black Sabbath school of Rock-n-Roll. With more than its fair share of catchy riffs and timely solos, the band has honed in on seeds planted in the early ’70s that eventually gave birth to the Retro and Stoner Rock genres. The second half of the album begins to trample into formulaic territory, but overall the album is a strong follow-up to their self-titled debut from a year ago. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Higher Reeper 3.5 out of 5 stars.