You’d think that coming from Norway would give you an edge when creating doom metal: all those vast bleak landscapes and long dark nights. Where better to contemplate the futility of existence whilst drinking yourself into a maudlin, nihilistic funk?
High Priest of Saturn are a three piece from Trondheim, and this four track release on Svart Records is their debut album. Yes, only four tracks. Four, very long, tracks. High Priest of Saturn don’t do brevity. The trouble is there’s nothing in these songs which justifies terming them as epics or deserving of your long term attention. Writing and releasing long songs suggests you have big ideas, huge dramas to unfold and musical chops to express. However, all the songs here are so one paced and lacking in dramatics that they are like wallpaper, enormous swathes of grey wallpaper.
Perhaps the biggest problem is the vocal mix of multi-instrumentalist Merethe Heggset. Her voice is so washed out that it lacks any emotional involvement at all. Chilly detachment can be great in a female vocalist but this just sounds weak. It’s annoying as I think with a stronger presence in the mix, and slightly more forceful delivery Heggset could have saved this album from ignominy. As it is, it’s just the most alarming of the many failings.
For me doom metal needs huge powerful grooves, space to create tension and drumming that mixes brutality with jazz-like sophistication. (Perhaps harshly, I judge all doom drummers by the incomparable Bill Ward of Black Sabbath). Sadly for High Priest of Saturn, they seem unconcerned with any of what I consider to be the cornerstones of the genre.
I hate giving negative reviews so let’s end on a positive. Well, the only plus point I can find is Heggset‘s organ playing (a Hammond, I think), especially on the closing ‘On Mayda Insula’, which adds the only colour and interest to this otherwise drab record.