Monday, December 10, 2012

Your Highness - Blue Devils (EP) (2012)

Years ago, Henry Rollins waxed poetic about the possibility of being invaded and "saved" by Belgians. It seems funny at the time, not knowing very much about Belgium. But as you breeze through the three tracks of "Blue Devils," the new EP by stoner five piece Your Highness, the idea may seem more and more enjoyable. Taking on southern American tones, and delving into the ways of the blues, the country that brought us Jean Claude Van Damme may have revealed itself to be a hotbed of metal styles. Sewn into the three tracks and nearly twenty minutes of hazy, bloodshot stoner sludge, there is not only an understanding of how to create catchy riffs and rhythms, but how to execute them without a ounce of irony or cliche.

Immediately upon hearing opening riff to "Low Country Exiles," you may feel something pulling you further into the distorted guitars path. As the unrelenting stomp begins, you can either move with it, or be crushed by it. A combination of stoner and sludge guitars, booming kicks and harsh vocals, there is no need to search for subtleties here. To their credit, the pedal to the metal pacing of the track leaves no room for error. Everything is laid down with reckless abandon, but played in a such a way that you would never question the talent at hand. As a bending, distorted chord fades, the bludgeoning of "Wrack And Ruin" is only a breath away. Without sounding complete off base, there is a down tempo groove to the track, one that is rooted so heavily in the percussion. As the vocals scream ahead with no regard for human life, the duel guitar action leaves you with a veritable fountain of memorable riffs to fill your head. A dynamic solo portion, fueled by the tenets of the blues, fills a solid minute of airtime, and fills it in the best possible way. This is another instance of a mix being cloudy and murky, and it coming off as a positive.

If you have somehow managed to ignore the southern drawl thus far, "Blue Devils" throws it right in your face. From the first bending guitar strings, right into the body of the verse, each and every strum, stick and stomp is reminiscent of bands gone by. Whether it be in the twirling of the leads, or the pure devastation of the pre chorus, there is something special woven into the fabric of the track. Never is it more evident than in the middle of the song, where an extended blues solo floats through your right speaker, while single notes come from the left. When the full band reenters, you are thrown head first into a full blown southern blues jam, one that might make the likes of the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd feel right at home. Whether it was the intention or a happy accident, the lasting impression is there, making it a victory if nothing else.

We all feel a connection to music for a variety of reasons. This is what makes music a subjective topic, as our likes and dislikes come from personal experience. Sometimes you can identify with an album for reasons no one else can explain. When the last note of "Blue Devils" faded away, there was only silence left. But something on these three tracks stands out from the sea of albums in my rotation right now. It isn't easy to pinpoint what makes Your Highness so good, and I certainly wouldn't begin to try. But despite being a straight forward sort of band, here is a lot of thinking left to do once the music is gone. Whether you have an attachment to southern rock, old school blues, or just a love of all things metal, this may be a great album to sit down and digest.


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