High Priest – Invocation (Magnetic Eye Records)

Friday, 30th June 2023
Rating: 9 / 10

Friends since childhood, the inspiration for High Priest began in 2015 while taking in an Electric Wizard show – blown away by the power of doom and old school metal. Releasing two previous EP’s (the second of which in 2019 Sanctum led to a record deal with Magnetic Eye Records), it’s now apparent that the four-piece is ready to step up to the plate for the full-length debut Invocation, confidence for what they believe in at an all-time high. Choosing to blend influences across the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s gamut, this is quite a heavy, hypnotic effort that contains all the desired dynamic aspects one could ever want without overwhelming or exhausting the listener experience.

At times you have a mishmash of alternative to doom or stoner riffs played at a mid-tempo pace, while the vocals of bassist Justin Valentino channel aspects of Dave Grohl pushed through a distorted, distant caveman approach. Where you can feel Black Sabbath colliding into Alice in Chains, or Electric Wizard melding next to early Metallica – wah wah pedal action bristling against the monstrous riffs that linger in your headspace for days on end. The occasional twin-guitar harmonies bolster an already impressive rhythm guitar display from Pete Grossman and John Regan, taking highlight songs such as “Divinity” and “Universe” to that higher level of emotional connection. The smoke-filled haze permeates the landscape, right away as those heavy as steel bends, slow snare/kick hits, and Justin’s measured melodies hit your chest on the six-minute title track. An evil triad is a dangerous thing in capable hands – especially when drummer Dan Polak plays around in a slower, shuffle swing beat for “Conjure”, allowing the stoner/doom atmosphere to percolate from it’s slower opening to its faster transition before circling back in the end.

Should it really be surprising that this Chicago-based band can also throw together some mesmerizing vocal harmonies that match the foreboding textures in the longest song “Heaven”? The arrangement goes into a super doom direction until the 4:50 mark, picking up the pace for classic heavy metal mode as you join in the addictive chorus for the album’s conclusion. For this scribe’s first foray with High Priest, it’s very easily understandable how they’ve garnered praise, as this is heavy metal of the doom/stoner variety that does not sacrifice integrity, keeping the musical components and supreme songwriting abilities on point.

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