Every week, Michael Pementel dissects the heavy riffs of bands — new and old — in The Wednesday Sludge. He was gracious enough to let me hijack his column this week to gush about a band whose tones have been left droning in my conscious since December.
Chicago stoner quartet High Priest is an ode to everything that once turned legions of Beatles fans into lifelong purveyors of slow, gritty heavy metal. The band is comprised of two members of Like Rats (Southern Lord), which is evident in the opening riff of "Priest," the first song off the band's debut Consecration.
Consecration was a self-produced effort, engineered and mixed by guitarist Pete Grossmann at Bricktop Recording. Pete founded the recording studio in 2007 with Weekend Nachos guitarist Andy Nelson, and they have since recorded Harm's Way, Exalt and Veil of Maya among others.
While the band themselves identify as stoner rock purists, High Priest leave traces of sludge, doom and grunge in the five-song riff-laden opus. The interweaving of harmonized vocals and guitars give the listener a flash back to Black Sabbath and a Deliverance-era Corrosion of Conformity.
In interviews, members of High Priest have likened themselves to Church of Misery and Goatsnake, which are not bad comparisons in the slightest. Lyricism is something that is by and large hit-or-miss in stoner metal, but High Priest prove that stereotype dead wrong. In another universe, the band could have very easily been a lovechild of Alice in Chains, both lyrically and sonically.
Songs like "Blessed Rain" give off a heavy Layne Staley-vibe with guitarwork reminiscent of Jerry Cantrell. Consecration's mid-point, "Void," pays homage to the doom that birthed heavy metal in a way that would make Tony Iommi and Scott Weinrich smile, only to lead into what may be the album's two strongest tracks: "Alone" and "Chosen One." High Priest showcase their talents loud and proud, which is remarkable considering the band has been together since early 2016.
If stoner anthems are your thing when it comes to sludge metal, then all hail the riff smoke, High Priest is your savior.