I was feeling a little sentimental when I chose to cover Volume 5 of the Doom Sessions as my first ever review for the Shaman was of the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest in 2019 in Rome and featured High Reeper. It was also one of the last times I was able to travel before Coronavirus and its seemingly endless variants started taking over the world. The album features art by Luca Solo Macello whose work has adorned records by Ennio Morricone, Bone Church, Warlung and er Black Veil Brides. You couldn’t have gotten a more metal cover, especially one that evoked the spirit of Manowar and Cirth Ungol.
The first three tracks are by High Reeper a Wilmington, Delaware four-piece consisting of Shane Trimble – bass, Zach Thomas – vocals, Pat Daly – guitars and Justin Di Pinto on drums. My mention of Cirith Ungol and Manowar is somewhat coincidental seeing as drummer Justin explained to Doomed Nation that ‘Our sound is much more metal now but our take on heavy metal’.
Opening track Vermillion Iron confirms this change in direction with soaring vocals and killer chunky traditional metal riffing which puts High Reeper in Grand Magus territory, who themselves underwent a similar transformation. Winter King/Devil’s Grip sees a detectable Mercyful Fate influence with Zach excelling himself vocally in a King Diamond and Rob Halford fashion. I also sensed a rougher more exciting street doom feel ala R.I.P, indicative of a band that hasn’t quite yet abandoned its roots entirely.
Withering Decay concludes High Reeper‘s side of the EP on a much softer, melancholic note before we’re taken by surprise with some pretty awesome old-school doom ala Trouble and a smattering of Ultramega OK era Soundgarden, the vocals reminding one of the late great Chris Cornell in his younger days. In summary, all of the tracks make for a predictably solid and impressive display from High Reeper.
Heavy Psych Sounds have hit a home run here…
Friend and Shaman colleague Lee Beamish recently waxed lyrical about Hippie Death Cult‘s Circle Of Days album and seeing as he has a pretty good eye for promising up and coming bands, I decided to take the plunge and see if they were worth the hype. The band hail from Portland, Oregon and consist of Ryan Moore – drums, Ben Jackson – vocals/keys, Eddie Brnabic – guitar and Laura Phillips on bass.
The band may only contribute two tracks but they’re considerably longer, starting with the eight minute plus Fill The Fires. This number features some spoken word by (I believe) Philosopher Alan Watts, while musically we are met by a curious mix of post-metal ala Neurosis (tribal drumming in tow) and lo-fi Slayer-ish thrash. But it’s so much more than that and compared to High Reeper its less bombastic, more experimental and daring.
Towards Infinity starts on a languid blues trip before expanding gradually into space-rock climes. There is also a 1970s progressive Uriah Heep aura with some of the soloing, reminding me of Mick Box, one of the most underrated guitarists of our time. Both tracks pique my interest enough to want to investigate Hippie Death Cult further.
Heavy Psych Sounds have hit a home run here in feeding not only my nostalgia but also aiding the discovery of, a till now, unheard new band. It’s a release that showcases the talent of two relatively young bands and highlights the fact that, despite their disparate spirit and approach, have nonetheless ‘collaborated’ on a release that is well worth your attention, time and money.
Scribed by: Reza Mills