Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Highgate: Black Frost Fallout (2011)


TotalRust sent me a promo for Highgate's Black Frost Fallout. I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth (OK, maybe I am, but that's what they ask me to do), but this is a compilation. It's difficult for me to appreciate a compilation, much less review it. Of course, in the music industry (as the term "industry" implies), the line between "art" and "product" is blurry, but I think an album is the former while a compilation is the latter. I like to think of the best bands as artists rather than manufacturers, and the best label heads as museum curators rather than salesmen. Call me pretentious, but I like to think of what I do as more akin to critiquing paintings than to comparing deodorants.

But a compilation is what it is. Highgate is a Kentucky doom band with a strong blackened flavor brought about by the guitar tone and the strained-screams-in-a-cheap-microphone vocal technique. Songs like the title track depend on chords that ring out, and in some places they add some cool guitar leads (e.g. "Burial Light"). Occasionally, they go into full-on black metal ("Wolf"). The apocalyptic mood brings to mind Unearthly Trance, and this is only enhanced by the bile-filled vocals, which are so good they set the band apart from being "just another" doom band.

The compilation is composed of an early demo, some miscellaneous disposable (and WTF?) pieces, plus a couple of live recordings. The demo part is very promising, with two killer tracks and a couple decent ones, but it's the live tracks that really pique my interest. One is from their first full-length (which was not particularly well-received per Metal Archives), and the other is the title track done again. Both of them reveal a band with more potential than the demo alone.

The Verdict: As a product, any compilation is a tough sell for me. But what this reveals is a picture of a band with a great deal of potential. I definitely want to hear what they do next. I give Black Frost Fallout 3 out of 5 stars.

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