High Leaf – Vision Quest
Release Date: 05/05/23
Running Time: 37:37
Review by Dark Juan
I have returned from wrangling young gentlepersons to discover that Mrs Dark Juan has re-arranged the lounge again. This is not good because a) I am more Sheldon Cooper than Sheldon Cooper about having my spot and b) now I have to make yet another new buttock crevice in a new armchair. When you have an arse like two badly parked Volkswagens comfort is king, and I am all about comfort. Especially when there is a mere singular Smellhound left in Crow Cottage and there are insufficient cuddles to go round now because Hodgson Biological-Warfare is emphatically Mrs Dark Juan’s dog and Dark Juan doesn’t get a look in after the loss of Wing Commander Sir Zeusington Zeus VC KCVG MM DFC and Bar and the rather more recent and raw loss of the Dread Lord Igor Egbert Bryan Clown-Shoe Cleavage-Hoover. Nevertheless, I push through my hardships to provide you, my dearly beloved (and probably imagined) hordes quality content and superbly executed record reviews, delivered through the ether, to your electronic device of choice.
Today’s victims, already spinning upon the freshly armoured and gaudily painted Platter of Splatter ™, are High Leaf from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the former colonies of His Majesty. No taxation without representation, indeed. Tea in a harbour. Tea. Philistines. Absolute shambles, dear boy, a total bloody shambles. Polish your monocle, there’s a good chap. Stiff upper lip and a total and pig-headed unwillingness to accept facts directly in front of us will see us through. Makes you proud to be British…
DISCLAIMER: Dark Juan is not a Royalist. Dark Juan would rather see the whole fucking parasitic clan of Windsors and Mountbattens stripped of their palaces and wealth, the Lords dissolved and the whole political system overhauled. Preferably with Dark Juan in charge. Things would be fucking run properly if I were in charge, I tell thee…
Pardon me. I digressed for a moment. As it happens High Leaf play a superior brand of Grunge- fuelled Stoner Metal and it is a sound Dark Juan is here for! Bearing in mind that they are a Wild Card entry issued to me by our Lord and Saviour here at Ever-Metal.com, Simon “Even More Metal Than Metal Carl And No One Is More Metal Than Metal Carl” Black, and wildcard selections can be, let us be diplomatic here… somewhat variable in the quality of the release, songwriting and performance (hello, Dunwich Dreams. I am still traumatised) and I am pleased to report that we are on to a bit of a winner with High Leaf.
Leaning rather more towards the scuzzy, fuzzy sound of “Badmotorfinger”-era Soundgarden as to the dry as tinder Desert-based Stoner of Kyuss, High Leaf give us music that’s just as well suited to the apocalypse when fire pours from the sky as they are to sunny evening with cold beers and good friends, as well as proving to be adept at giving us the kind of long, slow, laid back grooves that Stoner Metal is known for.
Opening with the sound of a major toke on a bong (Dark Juan does not indulge) and a riff that owes much to Brum proto-metallers Black Sabbath, but with the absolute fuzz madness of Soundgarden and Red Spektor on ‘Green Rider’, first impressions are that vocalist/ guitarist Corey Presner is a man blessed with a set of pipes beyond compare. His voice effortlessly ranges between baritone crooning through to a raspy, full-on rock and roll delivery, all Marlboro Reds and Lone Star Beer as well as handling some absolutely peachy, laid-back riffing. One does wonder whether it was a happy coincidence, or done by design when you discover that a paean to smoking some of the herb lasts exactly 4:20? Enquiring minds want to know, High Leaf! ‘Vision Quest’ begins with a lovely, gentle, and clean chord medley and a relaxed lead line, before a magisterial riff kicks you in your stoned as fuck arse and sets you up with a Jack and Coke before showing your overmedicated hypothalamus the undoubted talent of Patrick “Riffslayer” Fiore on the guitar. This is where High Leaf are at their most Stoner… the music is slow and blissed out, nothing forced or rushed and supremely relaxed throughout the entire piece – it has an almost Progressive edge to it during the elongated middle section, and then there is colossal hyperfuzz and a sudden yanking up of the metaphorical skirts before Presner opens that magnificent throat once again. The man can really howl and gets very close to Chris Cornell levels of high-end commitment.
Fuck me, this band is good.
‘Subversive’ is another song that sounds more Soundgarden than Stoner to my poor abused ears – the guitar sound is not a million miles away from Kim Thayil’s signature sound and the subject matter of the lyrics is totally not Stoner territory where they only tend to waffle about Mary Jane and being utterly fucked. There’s a palpable sense of underlying rage which gives this song an edge; a dangerous edge that is normally missing from drawn-out Stoner Metal and the whole song is the better for it and it’s three minutes and twenty-odd seconds of sheer aural bliss. ‘Dead Eye’ has Patrick Fiore channelling the mighty Jerry Cantrell on the soloing on a song that is a short, sharp jab to the ribs.
‘Hard To Find’ is the standout track on the record, a masterpiece that wouldn’t be out of place of a Soundgarden, a Kyuss or a Clutch album, successfully melding Grunge, Desert Rock and Stoner in a wholly intoxicating brew that is smoky and satisfying from opening chord to final fadeout – its just fucking GROOVY, man, and you all know that Dark Juan prostrates himself before the altar of the ineffably groovy. Dark Juan himself is composed of 84% grooviness. Much to the horror of the young people he wrangles. ‘Painted Desert’ is the most Grunge song on the album until the bluesy, ballsy solo on the guitar.
Production wise, this record is fucking masterful. It was mixed and produced by Joe Boldizar and Patrick Fiore himself and mastered by four-time Grammy Award winner Will Borza (Deftones, 30 Seconds To Mars, ZZ Top) and everything about it is just fucking PERFECT. The bass drum is resonant, the snare sounds like a snare drum and not a like bin lid being hit by a herring and the bass guitar, although molasses-thick and treacly, does not overwhelm the stellar guitar work that Corey Presner and Patrick Fiore perform so… so… Groovily.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System is delighted to have made the accidental acquaintance of High Leaf and has no hesitation whatsoever in offering these Philadelphian Stoner gods a stonking 9/10 for a fucking amazing Grunge/ Stoner hybrid that’s fresh and original.
Well done, gentlemen. I raise a glass of single malt to you. I hope you visit the UK at some point because I’d be delighted to make friends with you.
01. Green Rider
02. Vision Quest
04. Dead Eye
05. Hard To Find
06. Painted Desert
07. March To The Grave
08. The Rot
Patrick Fiore- Lead Guitar
Corey Presner- Vocals/Guitar
Brian Schmidt- Bass
Dean Welsh- Drums
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