This is it... tune in, tune out, let the riffs wash over you and shield you from the harsh reality of this world - New Zealand's Grand Master of psychedelic rock, Craig Williamson, is back with his not so new band ARC OF ASCENT. 'The Higher Key' is their second album and again ARC OF ASCENT managed to construct a somewhat spiritual, yet brutal, hybrid of super-thick riffs and doom-induced heaviness. There's no doubt about it: this album is heavier than a herd of pachyderms. Despite all its crushing riff-power, 'The Higher Key' is meditative in some way, uplifting, and mystical. There's some sort of an Indian and Oriental vibe underneath all this riffs, which is partly due to Craig Williamson's mesmerizing vocal lines.
Its really interesting to hear how ARC OF ASCENT create their special kind of super heavy psychedelica. There are no swirling sonic effects or any other gimmicks. Moreover, the band makes no use of 1960's/1970's revivalism. But the interaction between Eastern harmonies, massive riffs and trippy guitar effects conjure up an otherworldly scenario of psychoactive quality. The massively fuzzed-out riffs evoke an archaic mood while the lyrics are rather cryptic, leaving the listener free to roam his own mental landscapes as the ARC OF ASCENT machine tears it all down. In addition 'The Higher Key' is more than just a collection of riffs, but those who are familiar with Craig Williamson's musical career (interview here) know that he can write a song.
Exactly as with the marvellous first album 'Circle Of The Sun', 'The Higher Key' features six long and powerful songs. The earthy clay-brown colour tone of the cover artwork perfectly reflects the tonal earthiness of the new album. 'Circle Of The Sun' (review here) was more like a reach for the stars but now the time has come for some grounded shaman rituals. For my part, I'll be there too because 'The Higher Key' truly is a stunner! Please note that the deluxe vinyl edition has been released by Clostridium Records, whereas the CD edition comes from Craig Williamson's own label Astral Projection.