Review by: Meriel Longmore
Review score: 3/5
The first thing that strikes about HIGHGATE is the similarity to bands such as KHANATE, OTESANEK, NEGATIVE REACTION, STUMM, WRECK OF THE HESPERUS and GRIEF. However the most striking similarity is to KHANATE certainly when bearing in mind their slower, more abstract offering of “Things Viral”; the style of vocals HIGHGATE use is very much in this vein, in fact astoundingly so, though perhaps less restrained and a little more tormented than KHANATE (that is just about possible!). “Highgate” is basically a combination of Sludge, Black Metal and Doom Metal with a few elements of Noise, Drone and synth experimentation thrown in here and there plus the sort of sampling you would expect from EYEHATEGOD in places.
The album consists of one long track of almost an hour in length so a moderate degree of perseverance and patience is needed when giving it a listen and therefore this will certainly not appeal to those who are looking for variety. The track itself is ultra-slow, raw and abrasive with fairly simplistic, repetitive and monotonous riffs, the production is not in any way polished and the atmosphere is as ominous and bleak as you would expect. So, in other words as far away from “accessible” as you can get. The question is whether this album is too inaccessible for some, especially those who are not so accustomed to the swamp-like depths that Sludge can offer. Around the 20 minute mark there is a section that is surprisingly reminiscent of the repetitive yet effective MCD released by SKEPTICISM entitled “Aes”, albeit a less grand and more filthy sounding “Aes”. This is certainly a higher point of the album as it changes the atmosphere slightly during this apocalyptic and colossal soundscape. The Black Metal elements heard here are fairly subtle, heard in riffs at times, though perhaps having more in common with the more depressive end of the Black Metal scale. The primitive nature of the release may appeal to those who look for this trait in Black Metal / Doom, however, HIGHGATE is an acquired taste as it is what could be described as extreme, ultra-primitive, minimalist Doom and is very far away from any form of technical wizardry.
Inspiration behind this release, of course, comes from the more negative aspects of life; with themes of War, death, suicide, and desolation being present. HIGHGATE are certainly masters of creating feelings of building tension, discomfort and nihilistic darkness. Overall the album is an unrelenting experience, perhaps not the most original but ideal for the most anti-social followers of the genres HIGHGATE combine in such an ugly manner.