It’s 2019 and it’s about damn time to get higher than ever before with the return of the boundless energy which swept through the previous year. A plentiful number of bands with strong releases in 2018 have either already returned with musical muscles flexed or are about to, teeth bared and poised to unleash their power once again. The turnaround so early on has been phenomenal so far and with the year well and truly in full force it’s only going to continue. One such band eager to keep the momentum going and the blood flowing are Philadelphia’s latest tempestuous portent of doom High Reeper, heralding the apocalypse with more of that swagger and finesse which made their debut one of last year’s best records – it’s time to dance with the Higher Reeper.
Almost 12 months to the day since High Reeper addled our minds with weed and speed the Penn-state quintet return armed to the gnashers with an impressive arsenal of riffs geared to wreak havoc and herald in the impending apocalypse. Though clearly the only possible immediate successor to their first record Higher Reeper feels more refined and foucsed with a clear vision in mind; shrouded in darkness it is a vision of finality, of endtymes, haunting the ruinous landscapes as much as it delivers on walloping proto-doom heaviness, only this time around they have amped the doom up to 11. Sneering and howling his way across Pat Daly and Andrew Price’s rigorous licks Zach Thomas is on fire and rises through the smoke-riddled melodies and perfectly catapults the music to new reaches. With Waco Jesus’ Justin Di Pinto replacing Napz Mosley behind the kit you can bet the thundering is wholly intensified; though it’s outside his normal wheelhouse his delivery only adds to the old school tendencies this band personifies.
The nuances to be found on Higher Reeper are nothing short of sublime: their darker approach to the music serves them just as well in the ridiculously catchy ‘Bring the Dead’ and ‘Obsidian Peaks’ as it does in the ethereal and almost chilling ‘Apocalypse Hymn’, itself a haunting spectacle showing how far the band have developed in such little time. Both ‘Buried Alive’ and ‘Plague Hag’ set themselves apart by adding a touch of speed whilst the rest of the pack are perfectly ensconced in those retro doomy vibes found breathing down our necks in the first album. It does feel like you’re listening to High Reeper Part 2 in that, no matter how subtle the differences, you are getting a direct sequel similar in tone and execution but don’t take this as a bad thing; these songs sound incredible and revel in the band’s signature haze. As fun as it is heavy, it certainly pushes those elements higher to glorious yet familiar peaks.
With Higher Reeper the band firmly establishes its sound and intentions, as if those were not clear the first time around, as if they needed to hammer down on the coffins even more. Proving to be one of the go-to bands for no-frills and insatiably electrifying heavy metal, High Reeper continue to rattle on down the well-trodden cobbled roads to a place where the riffs are plentiful and triumphantly boudacious. With a tighter grasp on their craft and an improvement in bassist Shane Trimble’s production skills (though already damn good on the debut album) results in a belting album that would make even the grim spectre of death pleasantly fulfilled. Prepare to get higher as the end approaches…
Out on Heavy Psych Sounds.