Bring your tie-dyes to the pilgrimage.
There is nothing like getting a chance to root for the home team, especially given that the City of Brotherly Love’s metal scene is so often overshadowed by the ones in neighboring New York and New Jersey. Yet despite the up and comer traditional doom act with a strong psychedelic bent Heavy Temple being residents of Philadelphia, one listen to their signature blend of 70s oriented bluesy woe and free flowing jam band sensibilities will likely have most tying them to the booming scene going on in the U.K. of late. Led by bassist and vocalist High Priestess NightHawk, this power trio has been slogging away in the Mid-Atlantic underground since 2012 and has a sizable backlog of shorter releases, and despite a number of lineup shifts that has left her as the sole founding member of the group, has now unleashed an impressive debut LP in “Lupi Amoris” that may well give the southeastern Pennsylvania scene a needed shakeup.
Though this album consists of only 5 songs and clocks in at just less than 33 minutes, it displays a level of intricacy and flair that is uncommon even among LPs in the style that have twice as many tracks. For her part, High Priestess NightHawk proves highly capable at the bass despite having to also handle vocal duties, to the point where she’s managing a highly competent homage to Geezer Butler while also channeling Grace Slick. While the latter comparison might seem a stretch to some, the degree of depth and power displayed when the vocals are at the fore occasionally sounds like its itching to veer into a “White Rabbit” cover, all the while the bass wanders around in a manner reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s debut. Likewise, newly acquired guitarist Jaret Salvat-Rivera (i.e. Lord Paisley) showcases a highly skilled game at channeling the bluesy noodling style of the 70s rock paradigm, and also shows a knack for employing feedback and various quirky affects to heighten the psychedelic flavor of the arrangement that’s nasty enough for Electric Wizard, but controlled enough for early Saint Vitus.
The greatest charm that this album holds relative to the fairly crowded field of bands trying to relive the days when flower power was just starting to give way to heavy metal is that they don’t shy away from employing some more current ideas. Much of this comes into play with drummer Baron Lycan, whom largely follows a loose and slow to moderately fast range of beats in line with Bill Ward’s handiwork, but also isn’t shy about throwing in some double kick work that wasn’t terribly common prior to the tail end of the 1970s. For example, the otherwise by the numbers bluesy romp with a Volume 4 bent “A Desert Through The Trees”, which has a few notable bursts of double kick rumbles functioning almost as a dynamic cadence, reaching a fever pitch at the song’s climactic end, which also sees the guitar work channel Tony Iommi’s peculiar penchant for doubling the solo and having them split off in sort of a “Freebird” manner, for lack of a better analogy.
As the rest of the album unfolds, it becomes fairly clear that this trio’s approach walks a thin line between the overt classicism of Sabbath tribute that tends to go with their adopted sub-genre, but also a denser and noisier approach that is reasonably in line with Sleep. The slow-paced and looming jam “The Wolf” is a pretty blatant example of the latter, as the heavily distorted bass and the prominence of the drums gives it a sludgy edge. The dense psychedelic texture that dominates the opening moments of “The Maiden” also hint at a messier modern approach, although the bass drone that chimes in and provides the basis for the up tempo stride that it lands on is almost a dead-ringer for the closing riff on “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. The 9 minute long trudge session through the swamps that is “Isabella” is pure stoner fodder, but the minute those bluesy leads chime in it veers right back into ’72 Sabbath mode. But the biggest left-turn is the spacey synth intro of the closer “Howling Of A Prothalamion”, which sounds like a quotation of Holst’s “Mars (The Bringer Of War)” with a Count Raven twist.
As a proud resident of the Philadelphia area myself, I can’t help but kick myself for the fact that I’ve never caught this act live, though that will likely change in the coming months once things have fully normalized. But my own location bias aside, this is a solid example of how a style that was fully established before many of us were born can be reinterpreted into a fresh and current context without losing its original organic charm. The degree of skill and attention to detail that goes into each of these songs is highly impressive, especially considering the generally slow and gradual approach that is taken in transitioning from one idea to the next. Those who have particularly taken to the slew of newer acts coming out the U.K. such as Vodun, Pyre Of The Earth and Alunah will find a solid addition to their collection of early 70s swagger with an obsession with the fantastical.
Released By: Magnetic Eye Records
Released On: June 18th, 2021
Genre: Heavy Metal
- High Priestess NightHawk / Bass, Vocals
- Baron Lycan / Drums
- Jaret Salvat-Rivera / Guitars
“Lupi Amoris” track listing:
- A Desert Through the Trees
- The Wolf
- The Maiden
- Isabella (with Unrelenting Fangs)
- Howling of a Prothalamion
Its origins may go back more than 50 years, but flower power seems to be making another comeback of late, albeit with a far more raucous and doom-steeped brand of heaviness if a certain trio from Philly named Heavy Temple have any say on the matter with their latest psychedelic installment.