When one thinks of heavy metal and rock that originates from Norway, many people probably will think of the murderous black metal scene of the early ’90s and the subsequent bands that came from that land ever since. And probably Vikings. Would you be willing to amend that thinking to add smoking, trippy psychedelic rock?
Not that the land is devoid of that kind of thing, but it’s not all that common that a band like High Priest of Saturn comes into the night and sets up their canopy of mind alteration. Their self-titled debut album, out on Svart, might make you think more of the late ’60s and early ’70s than right here and now, and probably would have been right at home on the Rise Above label, where this type of music seems to flourish. But Svart’s done really well with this type of music, too, as Jess and the Ancient Ones stand as a good example, and they snapped up this band following their 2011 demo. Added to High Priest of Saturn’s witchy, ritual-setting sound is a heaping help of classic doom that mixes in perfectly and gives the band’s music an extra punch.
This album would be a great choice if you plan to spend the evening indoors, with little to no lights, trying to even out your senses after a busy week. You can add any number of mind-soothing substances to the mix and find that these four songs (combined they last over 40 minutes) are what you need to help you float away and sort out all the little things. Yes, there are dark, foreboding moments as well, as one should expect from any band that mixes doom into their work, but for the most part, that’s just there to help you see ghosts and demons, not be swept up by them. Make sense? It will if you spend time with the music.
This cauldron of Sleep-worships-Black Sabbath-mingles-with-Coven bubbling is made by only three people, though their sound sounds thick, massive, and of a doom army. Merethe Heggset handles bass and vocals, and her voice is a dark, deep, trickling presence throughout these songs. She doesn’t overpower at all, and she isn’t trying to be something that rises above the music, but instead she lets her voice blend in with everything else going on, acting as both a storyteller and another instrument in the compositions. Martin Sivertsen handles guitar work, while Andreas Hagen is on drums but also tosses in some of his own guitar prowess. Together, these three pair a formidable trio whose debut is a strong slab of psyche doom but also holds promise for more adventurous times ahead.
“Protean Towers,” a song that originally appeared on their 2011 EP and is re-done here, opens the record with simmering stoner guitar, infernal organs, and a deliberate pace that can keep you both enthralled and drowsy (in a good way). Heggset’s echoey vocals finally make their presence felt, and they add a ghostly presence to the song, while Sivertsen picks up with fiery, bluesy lead guitar work that slips into a cloud of smoke. Some channeled crunch brings the song to a close. “Kraken Mare” is up next and is pretty menacing overall. The vocals float above the whole thing like a bottle cap on a beer head, and more charged-up guitar work and druggy melodies keep this thing chilled out but also on fire.
“Crawling King Snake,” the other song that originally appeared on their demo, also gets some new musical threads, with more evil blues guitar excursions, and sweltering organs that sound like they’re summoning undesirable souls from the underworld in an effort to take over the earth. The music is fluid and expressive, and Heggset’s role, again, is to act as a spirit in the night leading the masses to their ultimate demise. Closer “On Mayda Insula” is the longest cut on the record at nearly 13 minutes, and it sounds like it was boiled in a pot and inspired by magick. It has a strong 1960s doom rock feeling, like it originated with the genre itself, and the song ignites early and slowly burns through its running time. It’s great for hanging back, searching your soul for answers, and getting closer to your own personal darkness. It’s good to do that sometimes.
High Priest of Saturn are giving Norway a whole new personality when it comes to heavy rock and doom, and that’s a great thing. Their debut is really strong effort that grows more infectious with each listen, and they seem like a band that has room to grow into their musical personality. All the parts are there, and I’m curious to see where they go from here.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/highpriestofsaturn
To buy the album, go here: http://www.svartrecords.com/shoppe/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.svartrecords.com/