Wednesday, May 22, 2013

... HIGHGATE "Survival" (Album Review)

Coming from Covington (Kentucky/USA) and formed in 2005, HIGHGATE is a blackened Sludge/Doom band consisting in S. Kirst (guit/bass), G. Brown (Voc/guit/Noise) and S. Porter (Drums). After a 1st self-titled album in 2008, the band released "Black Frost Fallout" three years later on Total Rust rds who now also puted out their new album "Survival" a couple of months ago...

Tagged so far as Sludge-Noise, extremely slow and abrasive with tortured-like vocals, the band was known until now as the kind of love it or hate it affair which this subgenre often generates and then... what's up now with this "Survival" ? Well, if they didn't change drastically things, I think a couple of important arguments make them  slightly more digestible - although this is still stuff for those who like disturbing sounds ! 

First, the production is far more consistent and less crude, as the developped structures required it, also vocals merge more easily in the music and may be accessible to more people; then the overall approach is doomier than previously, more obscure and hopeless, in any cases not as harsh and noisy at least musically speaking... Not just vocally wise where Kirst excels in sickness, HIGHGATE is still ugly, cold, despaired and 150%  uncompromising but found its style somewhere between Sunn O))), Celtic Frost, Wolves in the Throne Room, Winter and Burzum ... 

Songs duration vary in increasing order from about 12 minutes to 20 minutes which let place for growing moods, including droning noises which could be seen as intros or outros - depending of the songs, but vocal samples have been deleted which is a pretty good thing. There's also a few tempo changes bringing them to black metal battlefields ("Mother Abyss"), epic and brutal, they seem to enhance their hateful caracters on the moment - but where HIGHGATE are the best and give the most essential of their textures comes through slow and monolithic riffage with suffocating yellings, those are filled with as much hate and despair !!!

Last (and longest) song "Nachwirkungen/Survival" gets my preference with that Winter touch in the 1st part, crushingly heavy with a bit more ominous tone, while the 2nd part is more of a epic blackened mid-tempo with beautiful and earthy savagery.

The guys have crafted here by far their most accomplished effort, without any concession, but with heart and musical development. Also I feel like an almost invisible and struggling  enlightenment which can definitely make them pretend catch the attention from a little wider audience while keeping the old fans sufficiently sated  by slow and hateful heaviness...
"Survival" is one of those special albums that leaves a mark , acting like a kind of deglutition of the actual miserable daily life we are progressively drowning in; it's also another highly recommendable album from Gad's catalogue - while waiting for next release from some other purveyors of hateful sounds (frenchies Cult of Occult)  but that's another story to come next month !

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