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Noktorn, July 26th, 2010

Aren't we, collectively, as a scene, getting too old for this? I mean, Highgate themselves are late to the game with their oppressive, noisy black/funeral doom, but I swear to god I feel like I'm 14 while listening to this. It's so overwrought and tortured it actually reverses back on itself and sounds rather spirited much of the time- too much Wormphlegm has actually turned funeral doom into muzak and now anyone attempting to go for the extreme angle again is reduced to self-parody. Highgate's not a particularly crushing disappointment in their little avenue of extreme doom- hell, I'd say they do it better than a lot of their bedroom-made compatriots. But still, even though it's mostly listenable (if never particularly striking), I still have to wonder why the fuck I'm listening to this instead of an album with more actual content.

This album is supposed to be one long song, which is total bullshit, as it's just essentially unrelated tracks strung together with sections of fairly boring electronic ambiance which adds nothing to the whole. More importantly, the individual songs are unremarkable enough that the album tends to just drone on the same way all the way through. Admittedly, Highgate's 'album' does pick up at around the halfway point; the tempo picks up a little bit and the melodies become more nuanced, but first you have to sit through around 25 minutes of Corrupted-inspired sludge/doom that sounds like it could have easily been made by one dude in his basement rather than a few dudes working in tandem to create an interesting whole. Patience is most certainly a necessity to enjoy this release; hell, even I, someone who has a lot of musical patience, finds it difficult to sit through this sometimes. This isn't to say even the early parts of this track are necessarily unlistenable, but there's very little in the way of progression throughout the individual songs- there's a ton of circling around the same general funeral/sludge doom ideas, but not a lot of creating something that really ebbs and flows the way a funeral doom song should. It reminds me a lot of Loss in that respect: they've clearly memorized the playbook but still don't really understand WHY those are the rules.

I don't think I'd have as much animosity to this release if it had just been split into 10 or so tracks rather than attempting to string everything together into a whole; the electronic intermezzos are meaningless even if some of the later songs are good. But enough of my complaints; the latter half of this album is surprisingly good and makes up for the rather lackluster front 9, reminding me in parts of Bethlehem with a rather rockish style of black/doom that somehow avoids a depressive black feel while maintaining the general sense of malaise the band cultivates. I enjoy the sort of drunken, half-remembered Gallhammer riffs the band starts churning out at this point on the album; it's like here they finally realize that just aping extreme doom is boring and they're actually just a few Kentucky boys with some Skepticism CDs. The overall effect is actually much more malignant than the overwrought attempts at such provided by the first half- there's a refreshing honesty to it that's much more charming than when the band is actually trying.

Ultimately the problem with this album is that it's so piteously self-aware; I don't get the sense that, most of the time, the band really believes in what they're doing. It sounds like what most people would churn out were they given a working knowledge of modern extreme doom metal- capable but unconvincing. The vocals are tormented, but not really due to any actual torment- just because they're supposed to sound as such. The heaving, droning riffs tend to echo similar things I've already heard in the Grief catalog, and the somewhat annoying guitar tone doesn't add to it. I don't mind this album and I do think the band has potential, but they'll definitely have to step up their game a notch and stop worrying so much about fitting into a certain niche if they're really going to advance as a band.

The epitome of boring - 7%

Veritas_In_Omnes, March 12th, 2008

Highgate’s first full-length features one really long song. Almost 55 minutes of mind crushing down tempo - mind crushing in a very bad way.

What is served here is the most boring album I had the doubtful honor to listen to. It’s so bad, I don’t even know where to start do criticize it. In general, I don’t have a problem with “primitive” songwriting and the use of as few riffs as possible, but Highgate really manage to test my nerves with this song.

The moment you start the CD, it becomes a pain in the neck. The production is far from acceptable. I mean, I understand that a Black Metal release doesn’t need to be shiny and polished and it’s sometimes the charm of a “bad” production that makes a Black Metal release perfect, but that includes, that the instruments sound like they were actually trying to play together. On “Untitled” you hear some guitars, drums and vocals and none of them correspond to each other. It’s like they forcefully work against each other. This is one point, which makes this album unlistenable.

The songwriting itself is somewhere below average. Most of the time you can hear uninspired slow riffs which drag the song slowly forward. Luckily sometimes they alter the tempo so it ads a little diversity. But this diversity is immediately destroyed by the abrupt changes of the riffs. If occasionally some atmosphere comes up, Highgate decide to change the riff without any transition. There is no constant flow between the riffs, but only one bland riff after another, like if you were drinking a warm beer - which is awful enough - and then someone vomits into your glass.

Every now and then the music stops in favor of an “ambient” passage which really is just some awful industrial pattern. To me, these breaks just serve as a transition between each part. It just doesn’t feel like one coherent song, but at least 6 which are glued together by these interludes. I don’t know why this happened, but I think it has something to do with the “cult” that you have to make at least one really long song in your career. Moonsorrow did such with their latest album as well as Nucleus Torn. Heck, Godspeed You! Black Emperor only make lengthy songs, but even these are pure genius if compared to Highgate – ok, GY!BE is pure genius compared to every other band, it just underlines my point. But these bands really know what they’re doing and they create really atmospheric music, where Highgate is just long, slow and boring.

Though there is one short passage which I like and that is around the 24 minute mark and it lasts about a minute and half. It really resembles Reverend Bizarre’s music and there’s even a short but cool guitar solo. Even the voice fits the music, where as it normally is just another noise added to the boring background. Sadly, this passage is so short, that it’s just really a drop of wine in an ocean full of shit.

Every competent musician would shorten this song to 5 minutes, maybe even less, because there’s just too much uninspired stuff over the whole playing time. If you consider buying this then I advise you to not do so, but download it instead and cut out the mentioned part that resembles Reverend Bizarre with a free audio program. This release isn’t worth any money for a minute and half of decent music and 50 minutes of lame and boring bullshit. Just do yourself a favor and don’t torture yourself with this boring piece of shit. I seriously hope that this won’t be considered their magnum opus, because it hardly could get any worse.


caspian, March 1st, 2008

For what is probably the most unaccessible strand of metal out there, the whole "Scream over really slow guitar riffs and/or repetitive drumming for a very long time" vein of metal has generated a fair bit of material. Being a fairly gentle, delicate sort of person, I tend to avoid most of this kind of stuff, but here and there it's good to get a bit depressed and just dive headlong into an hour long song of despair or whatever.

Highgate don't really do anything groundbreaking here, but it's still a worthwhile. The guitars cycle through a few riffs but rarely get all that fast- it's hard to think up a good description but I think a slightly sped up Khanate sounds like what these guys for, another apt one would be a much, much darker early Isis covering some Sunn O))). It's slow and extremely pounding, and while most people would likely be bored witless by such a long, fearsome doom song, there's enough variety here to keep some very dedicated doom fans interested, and as the song drags along there's a few mid paced riffs here and there that nicely up the intensity. While I would call this one song, there's the definite suggestion within the song that there's movements here and there with plenty of (surprisingly un-boring) ambient parts and slower, clean parts being scattered throughout.

Naturally, through the album the mood stays as ominous and tormented as possible. Honestly, it probably wouldn't be quite as evil and unsettling and whatnot if the vocals wasn't quite as nuts as he is- but he does sound genuinely tormented, and even when the rest of the band takes thing down a notch, he's still there, sounding a lot like Khanate's vocalist, but maybe less controlled and a bit more unsettled and chaotic.

One problem I find with these super long, super bummed out kinda doom/sludge bands is that often there's little in the way of exciting or interesting musicianship- it's not hard to write an hour long song that's all depressing, just give your drummer a metronome at 40bpm and play 3 chords over and over and over again while you scream a bit- but these guys do seem to have a genuine skill at what they do. There's a few moments of relative speediness as the album goes on which help a huge amount- admittedly, they do occasionally reduce the otherwise crippling tension, but they sure help keep it more interesting (especially the excellent riff around the 38 minute mark)- and the drummer does really well on his end, mixing in a number of different tempos and feels will often returning to a well developed theme- definitely something I like to see within this kind of genre.

So overall, this is an album that's been done pretty well in an often difficult-to-pull-off genre, and Highgate are to be commended for that. Not recommended for power metal fans, perhaps, but if you're a sedated doom head OR you have a lot of patience then you'll probably enjoy this album a great deal.