Monday 19 January 2015

Colour Haze - To The Highest Gods We Know (Album Review)

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 15/12/2014
Label: Electrohasch

‘To The Highest Gods We Know’ CD//LP// track listing:

1. Circles
2. Paradise
3. Überall
4. Call
5. To the Highest Gods We Know

Colour Haze  is:

Bass | Philipp Rasthofer
Drums | Manfred Merwald
Guitar, Vocals | Stefan Koglek


Similar to the first signs of spring, “To The Highest Gods We Know,” Colour Haze’s first album since 2012, materialized out of nowhere without warning or expectation. With a sleepy sense of laziness, the album unfolds and plays out beautifully like a black bear waking up from hibernation. It starts out slow, radiating like the first sunbeams of the morning, bringing familiar warmth with them as a new season begins. Throughout its running time, the album breathes and lives with a slow cooking energy that is both strong and nimble. With “To The Highest Gods We Know,” the band has once again served up a platter of ethereal beauty wrapped in gorgeous, lush tones taken straight from Mother Nature’s soundtrack.

The album opens with two songs that stand across from each other like night and day. “Circles,” the first song of praise, is heavy and builds slowly; inch by inch, barely breaking free in it’s mid-section before returning to the slow trudge that began the song. Potentially, this structure leaves the listener with the feeling that the song doesn’t actually go anywhere but due to its meditative nature, it doesn’t need to. As its counterpart, “Paradise” breaks the meditation with its upbeat tempo and traditional structure of verses feeding themselves to choruses as the band drives the song down to the beach. In both songs, Koglek stands in front of the mix as a lead singer, seemingly more comfortable than ever to do so, using his raspy, German accent to gently call praise to the highest gods he knows.

For those in the know, when word made it down the line that a new Colour Haze album was to appear, “Uberall” was released in the form of a video taken from the band’s most recent performance at DunaJam. It came across as a song that would have found a comfortable home on any one of their albums but with a fresh vibe. This video showed Koglek, Rasthofer, and Merwald jamming together in a state of bliss, blasting the sandy beaches and the lone dancer with sounds of jubilation and spiritual freedom. Watching that girl spin around in circles with her arms raised up high in the air confirmed that Colour Haze had not lost their psychedelic prowess and let us know that they, too, wanted to bring out a new album.

With every new Colour Haze album comes a little bit of experimentation and the first example of that here is “Call,” an eerie but gentle piece of music with nothing more than a lone guitar and Koglek secretly borrowing a trick or two from Mark Lanegan. The song feels like an evening of foreplay with a beautiful girl whose mission it is to challenge the weak and reward the strong. Every time a step is made for the song to break free, it doesn’t, and the lady remains clad. Ok, cool trick, but then it’ll be a sure thing that the levee will break at the next repetition, or the next. But no. If bets have been placed for a third-time’s-a-charm rock out, then too bad, the dealer wins. Instead, the song appears to come to a complete close without any sign of the rest of the band. But then out of nowhere, the tension is broken, the girl drops her robe, and the band breaks into a traditional Colour Haze jam, albeit very shortly, making “Call” an experiment with dazzling results.

The last track on the album is the title track and it might leave some confused. It is a song in which acoustic guitars and violins play cat and mouse with each other. The acoustic guitar, playing the role of the mouse, is playful, stylistically somewhere between flamenco and the Far East, dancing around without a care in the world. The violins hide in the background for most of the song, letting their presence be known but not yet coming out for the kill until close to the end, once the mouse has worn himself out. It is an interesting attempt at pitting these stringed instruments against each other, however this experiment is perhaps misplaced as the album’s closer.

Since the late 90’s, Colour Haze have been a force to be reckoned with, within the European stoner rock circuit, churning out album after album, each one a masterpiece in it’s own right. Their guitar tone is so recognizable, sounding gentle and thick all at once. The bass is swampy, hanging right in the sweet spot of the low end, and the drumming is always fantastic, holding a groove while simultaneously filling out the music with manic precision. Whether the band is up on stage nonchalantly kicking ass or their records are spinning on a turntable, Colour Haze is one of few bands that has consistently produced music of quality and integrity. “To The Highest Gods We Know” is no different. Though this album may not fully exemplify the band due to its short running time, it is an album that will stand proudly as the latest addition to the Colour Haze discography.

Words by: Victor van Ommen

You can pick up a CD/LP copy here .

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