Following up their good 2008 self-titled debut, Kentucky's HIGHGATE return with pretty much more of the same. Well ok, this time there are four tracks on the new album instead of just one, but three of them clock in at around thirteen minutes. It seems as if HIGHGATE have not lost their tendency to songs of epic proportions. Apart from this minor changes, the band takes hold of the foundations of the previous album and supplementing them with a greater degree of malevolent intent. The listener is levelled by a barrage of slow Grief-esque sludge which is partially enriched with black metal.
No wonder that 'Shrines To The warhead' creates an unfalteringly bleak and depressive atmosphere. There's nothing subtle or pleasant about this album; there are no melodic guitars, no clean vocals and no respite from the claustrophobic sonic mass. In this area, HIGHGATE is successful and also the production is pretty heavy and bears the necessary amount of filth. I do have a problem, though, with the musical sameness her, even if a piano appears in the third track named 'Of Ruins'.
Mostly, the album lacks the overwhelmingly immersive qualities this music needs to overcome its generic nature. I am well aware that the monotony is intended, but good sludge is not merely a lugubrious racket. As a result, 'Shrines To The Warhead' is a bit too one-dimensional and can be tiresome after a certain amount of time. What is more, there are not enough good riffs with the exception of 'Holy Poisoning', which is the best track on this album. But then, it becomes all too predictable. The record just passes by and even if I am not getting bored, it's not very much of an entertainment ride either. A few genuinely grim moments aside, there is little promise lurking here - one for hardened sludge devotees only.