High Priestess conjure smoking, psychedelic blaze, plaster doom with dreamy ‘Casting the Circle’

We’ve been doing some talking this week about ways to get your head out of the chaos that is life for every single human right now and into something in which you can branch out. I mostly suck at trying to meditate and calm down my constantly racing brain, but now and again music can get me and let me sink into something else and explore my dreams.

LA psyche doom trio High Priestess have been making music that can melt your brain away for four years now, and the arrival of their stunning second record “Casting the Circle” provides a much-needed outlet to step outside yourself and let reality fade to black for a bit. Over five tracks and 42 minutes, the band—guitarist/organist/vocalist Katie Gilchrest, bassist/vocalist Mariana Fiel, and drummer Megan Mullins—conjures strange atmospheres, often lulling you into a state of disarming calm before they deliver thunder and heavy punches you don’t see coming but definitely don’t mind when they arrive. They pick up where they left off on their great 2018 self-titled debut and add even more smokiness and disorientation, showing they’ve moved the center just a bit, spread their wings a little more, and found another stage in what they do so well.

The title track gets things started in utterly mesmerizing fashion, slowly moving through Middle Eastern-style vibes while clean calls hover in the air. Psychedelic guitars bubble and flow like a metallic river, simmering in place before trudging closes amid haunting sitars. “Erebus” has waters trickling before Sabbath-style playing unloads as things get bluesy and smokey. The calculated pace is steamy and alluring as strong guitar work turns rock into lava, as the calls of, “The sun spills blood on the sea,” get into your head. Keys blend into the scene as the track slowly winds down, and the things come to a quaking finish. “The Hourglass” has a sinewy start as the band uncoils, and the lead vocals are paired perfectly with rich group singing after each line. “Who do you think you are, how do you feel inside,” is called out as powerful soloing unhinges, as the track hovers. “Sand in the hourglass is falling,” Fiel levels as the playing churns, and the song fades with feedback.

“Invocation” is the longest cut here by far, spreading over a generous and well-used 17:22, taking its time to establish an atmosphere. Sci-fi keys travel as the Middle Eastern feel returns, and trickling keys make their way in before the guitars pick up the pace. The band explores its space with the urge of, “Awaken yourself,” calling deep within you, with the playing ramping up again. The track reaches its center point as speaking echoes, time begins to fade, and the playing gradually speeds up. “Light the candles, cast the circle,” Fiel demands as the track reaches its final push and is absorbed by keys. “Ave Satanas” is the minimalist closing track built with echoed a capella singing, noise reverberating, and angelic tones that surrender to the night.

I’m not sure “Casting the Circle” is going to be the cure all for my horrible meditation track record, but I’ve already been able to zone out and let it sink into my bones more often than my nervous brain typically allows. Aside from that, this band is made up of three incredibly talented players who seem to be gaining even more of a symmetry with one another and should continue to grow from here. This is a hell of a record that’s more sweltering than devastating, and each visit has revealed doors to dimensions I never knew existed.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/highpriestessmusic/

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/products

Or here (Europe): https://en.ripple.spkr.media/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.ripple-music.com/