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High Priestess – Casting The Circle Award winner

High Priestess
Casting The Circle
by Dave Nowels at 30 April 2020, 2:09 PM

Damn man, despite all the fuckery in the world, this has been one banging year for Doom and Psych music,and lo and behold, here's another one! HIGH PRIESTESS is an all female Psychedelia/Doom trio that have just released “Casting The Circle”, their smoking Ripple Music follow-up to 2018's Demo. I'm often humbled by how many fucking, great bands I discover doing this gig. But, I'm also saddened by how many I know I miss. I've gotten to discover some incredible female fronted Psych/Doom bands (BLACK ROAD, FRAYLE, DEAD FEATHERS) in the past year or so. Unless I'm mistaken, I think HIGH PRIESTESS is the only one I know of that's made up of all female members, and with “Casting The Circle” they just might be a new favorite band period for multiple reasons, I'll try to explain.

HIGH PRIESTESS is L.A. Based, and if you're looking for a hint of what they're about, start with the name. But, don't stop there. Even the song titles conjure images of smoke, shadows, the smell of incense, and plenty of mystery. I like all that shit. Point in their favor. The first cut, “Casting The Circle” confirms everything I've speculated about so far. There's slow, building drums, and a wicked Middle Eastern styled synth or Moog snaking in and out. The vocal harmonies of Fiel and Gilchrest join and create a somewhat deceptive calming effect. A hypnotic, soothing lull if you will, before things turn fierce like a rising flame. Things become more chaotic and intense as events progress, before exhausting itself like a dying ember. “Erebus” takes a more straightforward path forward, again with stunning vocals and harmonies and some fascinating percussion from Mullins throughout. There's almost a hint of a crafty Post-Rock Goth to be found too. I like good and unique harmonies, not to mention strong female vocals. These are both of those. Another point in the ladies favor.

“The Hourglass” Fuck me. What a beast of a song, and one of my favorites on the album. It may not be the most dominantly Psych track, but it grabs a hold of you early and never lets go. I found myself really curious how the song was going to keep evolving, but never wanting it to end, all while enjoying every second in between. Gilchrest's solo here just simply smolders. “Invocation” sees the Middle Eastern theme return, this time feeling more Egyptian in nature. It sways and coils like a viper, fueling an Egyptian 'high priestess' vibe initially. The longest track at over 17 minutes, it's an acid soaked cornucopia of psychedelia that serves as the album's sensory peak. Want a track to check out? This one is it. It's got everything. The band as players really impressed me. I already mentioned Mullins and her delivery of thunder, and partnered with Fiel, it's a perfect fit. Fiel's, bass lines dart in and out, piquing interest, only to dash away, return and repeat. What really got my attention though, was the guitar tone and technique. Not just on “Invocation”, but the whole damn album. Gilchrest just might be my new favorite player. Take a rawness of Page and Iommi, and mix it with the precision of Blackmore and there you have it. It's almost Gilmour-ish in it's subtlety. There's emotion and a sense of exploration in her playing, that really appealed to me. They've already won me over, but it's not over yet.

“Ave Satanas” is the perfect conclusion for this journey I've thoroughly enjoyed. It's peaceful, harmonic, and well, it's beautiful. It feels like there's a surrendering, the finality of a decision marked by the opening breath that precedes the song. HIGH PRIESTESS' “Casting The Circle” is a complex one,to be sure. A best scenario possible, conglomeration of psychedelic heaviness, vision, insane talent, and let's face it, they're beautiful ladies to boot. The name certainly fits. This one has jettisoned to the top of favorites list for 2020. Give it a shot and see if you agree.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Casting the Circle
2. Erebus
3. The Hourglass
4. Invocation
5. Ave Satanas
Lineup:
Katie Gilchrest - Guitars, Vocals, Organ
Mariana Fiel - Bass, Vocals
Megan Mullins - Drums, Percussion
Record Label: Ripple Music
     


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