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High Priest of Saturn - "High Priest of Saturn" (CD)

High Priest of Saturn - "High Priest of Saturn" CD cover image

"High Priest of Saturn" track listing:

1. Protean Towers (10:30)
2. Kraken Mare (9:06)
3. Crawling King Snake (9:01)
4. On Mayda Insula (12:49)

Reviewed by on March 26, 2013

"Calling on the gods of prog past to lead them in an organ-drenched binge of excess, the band is what would happen if the members from Sleep got high and jammed out to Deep Purple’s “In Rock” all day."

‘70s psychedelic meets hazy stoner doom on High Priest of Saturn’s self-titled debut. Calling on the gods of prog past to lead them in an organ-drenched binge of excess, the band is what would happen if the members from Sleep got high and jammed out to Deep Purple’s “In Rock” all day. The Norwegian trio may come from the land of black metal, but they love their doom metal. These four tracks aren’t much different from each other, though it’s less because of repetition than how they are structurally developed.

Nine is the magic number for this album; that’s the minimal length in minutes of each song on this eponymous release. Uptempo material is lax, as the album is transfixed on groovy, acid-drenched banter. Bassist Merethe Heggset has a fuzzy tone that will instantly recognizable to fans of the style, and her drifting vocals plant themselves in the background like a siren in Odysseus’ dreams. The vocals are an afterthought, though not an unsightly presence.

The Deep Purple reference comes from the magic fingers of guest musician Ole Kristian Malmedal, whose organ is a pleasant aura on the album. He mainly follows the riffs, tight-knit until “On Mayda Insula,” which goes full-out with a proggy jam passage led by Malmedal’s tasteful organ playing. Usually, it’s more of an extra boost, but comes out of hiding with a section that Jon Lord would be proud of. Another instance of this instead of the typical guitar leads that dominate the instrumental portions could have been warranted.

“Protean Towers” and “Crawling King Snake” were originally on the band's 2011 demo, and they fit in fine with the new songs. There’s not much in the way of excitement, save for some solid lead guitar work. This album is definitely mood music, whether it’s to relax or engage in more “recreational” events. For songs that average at least nine minutes, the pace is not laborious on the listener. There’s nothing that will pump the heart rate up, and is less of a party album and more of a late-night reprieve.

High Priest of Saturn doesn’t redefine doom or put a fresh spin on it with their first record, but that’s not a major knock against them. A cloud of smoke enhanced by sultry organ notes, this album is a diversion from the gloom and starkness that doom metal is associated with. There is a levity to their music, but this is not meant to be handled without care and attention. The song lengths demand it to be that way, and High Priest of Saturn is a welcomed attraction to those who love some smoky ‘70s-styled jamming with the crunch of stoner doom metal.

Highs: Psychedelic vibes thrown into a stoner doom landscape, great organ work, relaxes the listener with its mid-tempo pace

Lows: Not much excitement as far as tempo changes go, vocals are buried, a few more organ-led sections would have spiced the album up

Bottom line: Stoner doom metal with a rich organ sound, High Priest of Saturn's debut album is a strong beginning for the Norwegian trio.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)