Label: Svart Records
Release Date: Out Now
Genre: Doom/Stoner Metal
Mona Miluski – vocals
Christian “Shi” Pappas – guitar
Ingwer Boysen – guitar
Constantin Wüst – bass
Thomas Wildelau – drums & backing vocals
Sometimes you can tell by listening to an album that the band is something you need to hear live, and not through a set of speakers.
High Fighter’s debut album, Scars and Crosses, bears the watermark of this type of sound. It’s really good, heavy and snarling but the band sounds…contained. As if the god of thunder they conjure on tracks like “A Silver Heart” and “The Gatekeeper” has been grounded in the real world when he should be free to summon lightning from the skies with his dick.
And this isn’t meant as a criticism-I really mean it as a compliment. Their album, produced by the legendary Melvins producer, Toshi Kasai, is heavy, doomy, bluesy and makes me want to see them punish their instruments on a stage-because based on this album, I’m sure it is a crushing experience.
Mona Miluski’s smoky vocals curl their tendrils around your speakers and put your ears into the gentlest of strangleholds. Her voice jumps sporadically from low, clean vocals into guttural growls and back again without a moments notice, leaving the listener with a dizzying, roller coaster feeling. The opening track, “A Silver Heart”, starts the album’s engine with a confident, dirty diesel sensibility. Though Miluski’s vocals are only clean half the time, they are by no means weak or sensitive, as she belts out lyrics like “as tears fall from my eyes” with drummer Thomas Wildelau’s machine gun snap leads her sorrow.
The dusty, psychedelic gallop of “The Gatekeeper” feels like the soundtrack you would listen to driving to a bad place alone with the purpose to doing wrong. Guitarists Ingwer Boysen, Christian “Shi” Pappas and bassist Constantin Wüst create a sound that swirls languidly back and forth between the speakers, accompanied by an angel dust melody that eventually gives way to a heavier-but completely appropriate-groove.
Then after stomping through the thrashy mud of “Blinders”, the album’s beat shifts slightly into an upbeat, almost sunny intro rhythm for the beginning of “Portrait Mind”.
Its an oddly toe tapping song to maintain such heaviness. The up-tempo drum spanking the song derives its beat from can easily be traced back to the early rock sounds of bands like the Beatles, which is a surprising connection to be made. But I think it’s the most memorable song on the album.
The album winds down with “Gods”, “Down to the Sky”, and title track, “Scars and Crosses”. “Gods” and “Down to the Sky” are sadly unmemorable tracks due to their feeling of sameness. Both songs move nicely, but both simply don’t go anywhere and leave the listener with a what can be best described as ‘Doom Fatigue’-where the pummeling has gotten tired and it’s time to rest. It feels as if the tunes were recorded quickly and with nary a fuck given, so I can’t help but mourn the loss of how stellar they could’ve been if they were fleshed out a little bit.
On the plus side, the final track, “Scars and Crosses”, leaves you on just as high a note as you did when you came in on “Silver Heart”. It casually and smoothly alternates between a heavy blues swagger and a punky industrial pounding that makes for a fun and breezy end to the album.
All in all, Scars and Crosses takes the listener on a bumpy ride through a spectrum of sounds and influences: venomous blues, blistering pop, pitch black psychedelia and sunny day punk sounds, all while staying in the shadow of doom and stoner metal. It may not be a consistent record, but its heart is certainly in the right place.
Written by: David Locklear
Rating: David 7/10