Before I do anything else, I have to give props to High Reeper for having one of the best titles for a sophomore album that I’ve ever seen. Plenty of bands will number their releases or put in the occasional subheading to heighten the drama, but a title like Higher Reeper shows that the band’s second album is raising the stakes and not afraid of looking silly while doing so. Or they’re just more stoned this time around. Whatever works, really.
But for the most part, High Reeper’s second album continues the biker doom sound as seen on their 2018 debut. Shades of The Obsessed or Youngblood Supercult can be heard throughout as off-the-cuff blues riffs are delivered with loose rhythms and a processed yet earthy guitar tone that is sure to conjure images of desert sunsets. The vocals opt for a nasally, melodic shout in lieu of Wino’s signature bark, but the approach proves to be flexible.
Tighter and more varied songwriting also helps to set Higher Reeper apart from its predecessor. While the album is admittedly frontloaded, that first half is pretty awesome with “Buried Alive” offering the album’s best mid-tempo grooves, “Bring the Dead” drumming up a strong protometal gallop, and “Apocalypse Hymn” putting in more subdued textures with pleasantly echoing vocals and subtle piano touches. Fortunately, the second half still puts in its share of rockers with “Plague Hag” in particular making for a hard-hitting number.
High Reeper’s second album isn’t quite at classic level but it makes for some enjoyable desert rock. While the band’s approach can feel rather basic, the ways they tinker with the template keep the album from feeling one-dimensional and the breezy length keeps it from wearing out its welcome. The songwriting and musicianship enhancements ensure that the band will not only be outdoing their debut but also many of their peers. I can only imagine how much cooler it’ll be when the Highest Reeper rolls around…
“Bring the Dead”