Highgate
Shrines to the Warhead

Highgate’s follow up to their 2008 debut is like a really interesting movie you end up feeling ambivalent about. A picture projecting sickly foreboding, a sense of dread and imminent mental and physical collapse but the plot meanders and at the end you’re left intrigued with no desire to watch it again. You’re left searching for the director’s past and future releases because you know there’s dynamite somewhere. The tension and dread Highgate creates on Shrines to the Warhead are never released. They maim where they could kill and while doom fanatics may find a lot to like here its stagnating song structure prevents it from being a great album.

Shrines… opens with a brief ambient intro that leads into “Holy Poisoning”.  The guitar tone is thick and droning, the screams are harrowing and the pace is lethargic, resembling early Unearthly Trance.  It’s got a suffocating and vaguely blackened atmosphere that suits the deliberate instrumental approach.  “Of Ruins” presents more wholesale riff worship and crushing atmospheres that fade out with gentle piano keys. Closing track “Warhead Rise” brings the black metal atmosphere a little closer to the foreground but remains firmly in the riff centric realm of doom and picks up aggressively just before the end of the track.

The production is good and the riffs are heavy but the album as a whole is rather one dimensional.  Each track moves at roughly the same pace and they feel nearly motionless. “Of Ruins” is easily the best track on the album. It has the best riff on the album and when the distortion drops and the riff rises only to collapse like a thousand black stars it’s nothing short of sublime. There’s a glimpse of greatness there and it’s a shame it is throttled by two rather murky and indistinct tracks. It’s only a matter of time though and the next release could be a real game changer for these guys.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chuck Kucher
June 29th, 2011

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