Tee Pee 2010
It almost seems as though Priestess lived a lifetime with their first album, “Hello Master“. That outing saw them get picked up by a major label, tour the world with a number of impressive acts and even get prominently featured in the “Guitar Hero” videogame series back when that sort of thing actually mattered.
Despite their successes though their sophomore outing “Prior To The Fire” was nearly doomed from the start. Marred in label politics that saw the band leave the major label confines of RCA and return back to their independent roots; the album was left to sit on the shelf while the business got put back in order. Even so, it only takes a track or two to see why stoner/psych haven Tee Pee Records picked it up for a stateside release.
A searing, gritty guitar-driven affair, “Prior To The Fire” sounds like the output of a band whose calluses were developed from as many burnt roaches as they were feverish riffs. Scaling back the cleanliness of their sound and taking on a darker and damper atmosphere, the album sports a much heavier vibe than their previous work. This elevated level of aggression ultimately works to their advantage, especially when paired with the bands already established penchant for hooky songwriting.
But as clever as the hooks may be, there is also an alarming amount of depth to the songs – a stark contrast to the usual minimalist nature of their employed stoner rock aesthetic. It is perhaps this friction that makes the bulk of “Prior To The Fire” such a long enjoyable burn. Lush atmospherics are slashed by serrated smoky riffs while crunchy top heavy momentum is buoyed by catchy backing melodies. It’s this kind of give and take that forms not only the backbone of this album, but the flesh and blood as well.
“Prior To The Fire” is a highly developed, if not bold, step for the stoner rock genre. One able to stimulate the inner-hesher while still remaining cerebral enough to keep the synapses firing. Sure those not interested in the stoner/prog rock genre are unlikely to take notice. But those hessian types looking for a bridge between High On Fire and Fu Manchu need look no further. And if that’s not enough, then at the very least there’s “Murphy’s Law” – a questionable ode to “Robocop” that integrates quotes and plot points from the movie into the lyrics and choruses.
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