(Metal on Metal 2014)
The Italian maniacs in HI-GH have been kicking around for a few years, perfecting their own lethal take on greasy, grimy speed metal infused with punk and NWOBHM elements. They’ve impressed some folks along the way, as their recent ‘Till Death and After’ album was released by the notoriously picky Metal on Metal Records label. Showcasing eye-catching cover art by the renowned Jowita Kaminska depicting the four band members rising from the grave under a full moon with lightning bolts striking their craniums and fingertips, HI-GH certainly has the packaging and label backing for success this time around.
With a couple of exceptions, ‘Till Death and After’ is just an entertaining romp through realms of speed, melody and inspired frenetic riffery. The album’s opening salvo of “Till Death and After” and “The Russian Border” showcases everything awesome about HI-GH: fast and immediately memorable riffs that don’t leave out the melody, a pummeling rhythm section boasting a bulldozer bass attack from the Cronos school, cool (albeit) simple songwriting, and the gruff but surprisingly clear and likeable vocals of bassist/singer Tomasso Slowly. “Sex Machine” is more of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the dual-guitar speed riffage and harmonized melodic section courtesy of the two Marcos (Redeye and Psyki) is terrific. On the other hand, the juvenile lyrics (“Kiss my snake,” “Having good fun with sex and drugs” … really???) and overtly punk-style chorus drop the tune down a few notches. Fortunately, the bulk of the tunes reveal HI-GH as a band that balances its ingredients perfectly, beginning with a base of raw speed (a la bands like Exciter, Motorhead and Venom) and adding ear candy (in the form of those deft NWOBHM riffs and melodies) and attitude (that’s the punk part). When it works, this combination is a thing of beauty to behold, and it works quite often on ‘Till Death and After.’ Sure, there are some laughably bad lyrics in spots (“Devil’s Fire,” I am looking at you) and “Your Bloody Face” is a hugely annoying punk track with snotty vocals and a chorus repeated ad nauseum. Overall, though, the good outweighs the bad.
Sure, HI-GH still has a few rough edges to polish on future releases. But they’re onto something. Offhand, I can’t think of anyone else that has so effectively merged the sounds of speed metal, punk and classic early 80s guitar hard rock. It’s like Seax’s first record, but with more classic metal influences and better fleshed-out songs. That’s a good thing. To be sure, when the punk parts start to predominate or the lyrics descend too far into eye-rolling foolishness, my interest wavers. Otherwise, however, “Till Death and After” is a winner in my book.
~ Review by Kit Ekman~