Casting the Circle is the second release from L.A. band High Priestess and continues along the lines of their first album, seducing the listener with dreamy psychedelia, summer desert riffs, and ethereal vocals. The band is composed of three women, and like any great three-piece, they fill the speakers and the room with such power and energy, it’s hard to believe only three people are at work here.
The album opens with “Casting the Circle,” an atmospheric summoning ritual, more mood piece than rocker. But boy, is it dreamy and heavy and sacred. It drifts like smoke and swirls into a dissonant thunder, the vocals taking this into mystic realms. It builds and builds to its earth-quaking climax. “Erebus” slides in next, almost ten minutes long. That’s something you’re going to have to learn about these ladies: they like long jams, mixing the stoner riffs with more psychedelic moments. This one is no exception. Like most of their songs, it drifts along, lazy, hazy, carried by the atmosphere and the otherworldly vocals, before it all crashes in cymbals and riffs and thrumming bass. It doesn’t swing so much as…shift. “The Hourglass” is much bluesier and for some reason puts me in mind of The Doors even though it doesn’t really sound like them. Love the layered vocals and the grungy echoes. It also features some terrific soloing. Fourth song “Invocation” is the epic of the album, over 17 minutes long and fully embraces the stoner elements as well as the psychedelic. The song rambles on, in a good way, lots of smooth solos and witchy vocals and love offerings to Satan. It never once gets old or boring and the riffs crunch right when you need them to. The definition of epic. Closing track “Ave Satanas” is the shortest and pretty much what you might expect from the title. It serves as the epilogue to the record. If “Casting the Circle” was the invocation, this is the closing hymn, the ceremony settling down, dimming, becoming part of the liminal. The ritual has been done, now the magick is setting into its work.
It’s best to approach this album as an experience and less as one rocking track after another. I’ve used the word “ritual” a few times and I think that’s the most appropriate description. Yes, these are songs, wholly composed and brilliantly performed, but they also have a higher purpose. There is magick being worked here, in the riffs, in the melodies, in the bass, in the tribalistic drumming, and most definitely in the vocals. This is a seduction into the esoteric. And along the way, you get some fantastic music to help guide you along.
Four Buckets of Blood out of Four
Kelly is the author of dozens of stories and dozens of reviews, he likes to write, he likes to read, he likes going to the movies, and he loves to laugh. He hails from the wilds of Kentucky and if you'd like to see more of his work, check out his website: www.kellymhudson.com