Hard Rock Corner: High Reeper | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

Hard Rock Corner: High Reeper

With Premiere of “Obsidian Peaks”

Mar 04, 2019 By Frank Valish Web Exclusive
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Philadelphia's High Reeper was born out of a simple need to rock. After playing together in different configurations over the past 10 years, vocalist Zach Thomas, guitarists Pat Daly and Andrew Price, and bassist Shane Trimble, with then-drummer Napz Mosley, decided in 2016 to form a band just for the fun of it.

"After taking a break from music for about six months," says Trimble, "I approached Andrew and said that I wanted to get into doing a Sabbath-sounding record, a stoner rock record."

High Reeper began with little intention of touring, other than the occasional random gig, as Trimble says, for "just being drunk and stupid." The band intended to simply self-release its eponymous debut album digitally, but after posting songs on Bandcamp, it found the response overwhelming, and things started to happen.

"We were kinda just partying, making a record, and then booking shows to have fun and play riff rock," says Price. "So we could head bang."

"It just blew up really quickly on us," says Trimble. "We didn't know what was happening. And then right before our record was to come out on Bandcamp, we got a bunch of offers on record deals, and we took the only one we wanted."

With its second album, simply called Higher Reeper, out on March 22 on Heavy Psych Sounds, and with new drummer Justin DiPinto (ex-Malevolent Creation), High Reeper has come into its own. Possessing a singular focus indicative of the band's commitment to what had become much more than the occasionally sweaty, drunken gig, the album crushes with a primordial Black Sabbath-ian groove-guitar pound, deep bass and drum stomp, and over-the-top vocal fury.

The album is situated in two halves, which Thomas has described in interviews as the chaos and the aftermath, split in the middle by the gentle, haunting "Apocalypse Hymn."

"Zach buried himself in a hole for a while and came out with that idea," says Price. "After listening to the music over and over and over, you get the first song and then they just fall like dominos. When we wrote 'Eternal Leviathan,' we knew it was the first song on the record. When we write 'Barbarian,' we knew it was the last song on the record. And we started filling in the gaps. 'Eternal Leviathan' was also the first lyrics and vocal melody Zach wrote, and when he got that one, it was just bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. The concept had come to him and he fired them all out."

Of "Obsidian Peaks," premiered below, Trimble says, "It was one of the last songs we wrote. When we first wrote it, I wasn't feeling super great about it, and I don't think Andrew was either, and it wasn't until Zach actually put the vocal melody and lyrics on it that it really took shape.

Adds Price: "Our new drummer, Justin, comes from a metal background even more so than any of us, so I was a little bit apprehensive. The song has almost a crazy Judas Priest-like ending to it, and I was like, 'Man, I don't know about this,' but when Zach got the lyrics and the vocal melody, it really came together. A lot of times when the songs are done instrumentally, before the vocals, you're not really sure what it's going to be, and then Zach comes in and the song completely changes. 'Obsidian Peaks' was an example of that."

It's also important to note that Higher Reeper is dedicated to an old friend of Trimble's, a friend he played music with decades ago in New York in the early 90s, who had since moved home to New Zealand and passed away unexpectedly after a brief illness to liver cancer. Trimble found out about his illness around the same time High Reeper started writing the new album, and he passed away during the album's completion.

"He was dying as I was mixing the record," says Trimble, who notes that his passing added an additional weight to Higher Reeper. "I was unable to go to New Zealand to see him. We had already booked a tour. The record had to be delivered. There was no wiggle room. There were too many things counting on what was going on. But it was good, because it drove all of us, me especially, to work. So it ended up there was something good that came from him dying for sure."

Despite this being High Reeper's second foray into album release, given the way its career has panned out thus far, the band feels that it might as well be its first.

"Imagine if, instead of recording the record immediately as we wrote it, which we essentially did with the first one, that we actually had a year of playing it out live and writing other songs," says Trimble. "We would have just arrived at the second record, and it would have been our first."

"Because we had no expectations of the first record ever being anything but having fun and making something for ourselves," adds Price, "this second record, I would consider, while it's not the first, it's the first one for which we decided to hone in on a sound and deliver a product that best represents us."




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