Highgate – ‘Survival’ Album Review


If you like your songs short and snappy look away now, this release is most assuredly not for you. Indeed, with its black and white cover, three song track listing and forty-odd minute run time, the warning to ‘abandon hope, all ye who enter here’ should be stapled to the back of this dark, oppressive release.

If you’re still with us it means you have at least a passing interest in the blackened end of the doom genre, preferring the company of its stygian blackness to any number of effervescent pop-punk tunes. Highgate, this being the case, are the band for you. A three piece outfit, Highgate sound as if they’re playing from the very heart of the lake of fire, their slowed-down percussive assault used to pound out a rhythm that terrifies and disheartens whilst G Brown’s tarnished vocal style is let loose to wreak havoc on the mind-set of the weak-willed and easily distressed.  ‘Survival’ is their work and given its punishing nature you may be led to question whether ‘survival’ is the ultimate goal for anyone listening to this disturbing release.

With three tracks, opening gambit ‘mother abyss’ is the shortest entry with only twelve minutes under its belt. A thick, blackened fog of noise opens the song, unsettling and confusing the listener with a haze of atmospherics before a wall of feedback finally announces the arrival of the band. Imagine if Khanate had been just slightly accessible (in the way that water boarding is a more accessible form of torture than electrocution) and you’ll see where Highgate are coming from with their slowed-down, repetitive riffs given even further gravitas by the scorched-earth vocals. Slow, bruising, blasts on cymbal and kick drum keep the track moving in perpetual slow motion and the guitars and bass are a single, treacle-thick stream of despair slowly wending their way towards you, I is powerfully ominous stuff.

Second track, ‘there will never be … light again”, is performed as if the band wish to douse the light over all humanity simply with the force of their hateful riffs alone. Traumatic and Spite-laden, this is a slowed-down whirlwind of hate,that opens from a throbbing, digital hum into a clean beginning that is all the more ominous for its initial lack of violence. A slow-building nightmare, when the distorted groove does finally arrive it’s almost a relief to discover the band’s distressing plans for you rather than having to wait any longer for them to be revealed. Building on repetition and drone, the effect is much like being caught in an avalanche, and before you realise what has happened you are buried under multiple layers of twisted, mind-melting distortion.

The final track, ‘Nachwirkungen/survival’, at twenty minutes, is not only the longest track, but it is almost the most primal and distressing. Sludge laden riffs are only part of the story here, the hellish vocals add depth and a palpable sense of terror to the band’s sound whilst the riffs cycle and recycle menacingly. With the lights off and all other foolish things put away it’s a mesmerising experience that relies as much upon the listener’s ability to fill in spaces between lengthy drones as it does upon the band’s own ability to pour scalding, lava-like riffs over the churning percussion… And yet…

And yet, as the track progresses, so shades of light appear from behind the clouds. As the track speeds up so the riffs veer into the sun dappled territory of post rock via Isis and Jesu, before everything fades to monochrome, the only sounds left the squealing, endless noise of industry as oil-encrusted cogs grind together in the distance and the clouds close in once more.

To the uninitiated, the music of Highgate is likely to be as palatable as spending a relaxing evening in the torture chair of Dr Satan, but for those who enjoy being trapped in the path of the glacial riffs of acts such as Khanate, Sunn 0))) and Boris, then Highgate will prove to be an intoxicating musical feast. This is savage, primal, relentless music, as cold as a blizzard and as potentially deadly, and it is well worth tracking down a copy if your tastes run to the extreme.

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