Your Highness

City In Ruins

Written by: AP on 23/02/2015 22:40:30

When a band's moniker concludes with the suffix -ess, this tends to signal an inclination toward the Southern substyles of metal: sludge, stoner and their kindred. Slotting themselves among this crowd of Baronesses, Empresses and Big Businesses, Belgian born Your Highness make no pretensions about their genre of choice, nor their influences on this sophomore record "City in Ruins" released independently a couple of weeks back. By no means blessed with widespread media attention, the Antwerp based quintet only blipped on my radar as a consequence of sticking out like a sore thumb from Groezrock's 2015 line-up, yet having now given the outing multiple spins, it baffles me that still no label has pounced on the opportunity to sign them in their five years of existence.

Cue play, and you'll instantly be overcome by the sensation that Your Highness are far too potent to brush aside. Reinvent the palette they do not; the ten tracks showcased here are grounded firmly in the sludge of Atlanta, GA. But the group's loving embrace of the genre has nonetheless yielded a deeply satisfying collection of music in which skill of songwriting and an expert's understanding of dynamics are held on a pedestal. At times explosive, at times ridden with doom & blues, and at times harvesting the produce of classic rock'n'roll, there is barely a moment across its running length that threatens one's undivided attention, let alone tempts the usage of scathing words.

First song proper, "Jezebel", for instance has such a Church of Misery vibe to it - the distortion and deep grooving style employed by guitarists Bart Struyf & Jean Van Assche; the grizzly, murderous roar of vocalist Ben Baert - until halfway it transitions first into a Unida-style bass drone, and since a harmonised minor key melody much in the vein of Bombus. "Dead Pariah" meanwhile fuses the mystical, ethnically laced melodicism of Herder with the bombast and swagger of our native Helhorse, Baert sounding like a more bruising Mikkel W. Larsen on it. And on the centerpiece and lead single "Desertkater", Your Highness play to all of their strengths with an irresistible lead riff and rhythm, solo passages bursting with blues, and section shifts carried out with hair raising finesse.

With the aforementioned trio, the listener will have been acquainted with the brunt of the elements Your Highness utilise here, "Prey of the Pulpit" and "Fed on Fury" injecting that final necessity of rhythmic syncopation, divergent melodies and progressive structuring - the touch of Mastodon - and "Counter Cursed" flashing momentarily some rooting in hardcore as well. Indeed, "City in Ruins" is loaded with variety, a decision which proves crucial as the minutes tick in given the only real hindrance to grandeur from which Your Highness still suffer: the occasionally one dimensional platter from which Baert distills his voice. His power and ferocity have their place, certainly, but many an opportunity to complement a magnificent instrumental performance with another type of vocal are squandered in favour of a Hideki Fukasawa inspired bark.

Don't get me wrong: Baert's ultra-manly growl sits well most of the time, and even when it grows trite, the instrumental channels of which "City in Ruins" is composed are a veritable horn of plenty for the sludge- and stoner-leaning metal aficionado. Though not without weaknesses, the record is a pleasant surprise and one which will undoubtedly find its way into my playlist rotation on a regular basis.

Download: Jezebel, Dead Pariah, Desertkater, Prey of the Pulpit
For the fans of: Bombus, Church of Misery, Helhorse, Herder
Listen: Facebook

Release date 07.02.2015

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