“Extinction events can and will happen again,” states High Priest vocalist Tyler Hefner. “We are not excluded from that never-ending cycle.”
Hefner is discussing the themes of “World Eraser” – the bruising opener on High Priest’s new EP Grail Sludge – so it’s not like he shares these apocalyptic ruminations unprompted. I first heard the Virginian pit-stirrers at a Philadelphia gig at Century, tucked in the middle of a nine band lineup. My 65 year-old mother had never attended a metal show, and requested while visiting that we go see a band that would make her “shake her hair,” as my father calls headbanging. While she didn’t note High Priest’s agile riffs invoke Brian Izzi’s work with Trap Them, or that their grimy hardcore would feel at home on A389 Records, she thought the music was powerful, intense, and had a good (D-)beat. The crushers played during that set are now on Grail Sludge, a 4-track attack of barbed grind, breakdowns, and the best kind of bad vibes.
Whether it’s exploring the multitudes of outer space and inner self (“Perpetual Decline”) or fixating on the inevitability of death (“Fever Dreams”), Grail Sludge slugs it out with high concepts without sacrificing urgency and energy. Across 14 minutes, High Priest scream about the unanswerable questions we all face – 65 year-old James Taylor fans and their Carcass back-patched sons alike. With a tour coming later this year, High Priest will be slicing through the south, bringing a storm of disquieting anthems that will be anything about quiet.
Below, check out vocalist Tyler Hefner’s thoughts on mortality, driving in Jersey, and avoiding winter. But first, choose wisely and press play on High Priest’s Grail Sludge below.
How did the members of High Priest meet?
Tyler Hefner: Most of us met in high school about a thousand years ago, and have been in about just as many bands. [Bassist] Don and [drummer] James [Williamson] are brothers, and I met Bobby [Hamilton, guitars] on a B9 board thread shortly after moving back to Virginia in 2008.
What were the band’s goals when you formed in 2014?
TH: We really just wanted to create and write music with our friends and have something for the homies to bang their heads to. Getting into the studio, and seeing all kinds of different people react to our music – while playing locally and going on little tours when our schedule allows – has been both rewarding and humbling.
How do you think the band has changed since the release of your eponymous EP in 2015?
TH: We think the biggest difference is how we’ve refined and rounded out or sound. Tweaks with tone, changing instrument brands, and having a full understanding of how each member writes and works has really shone through with this latest release.
The EP features some striking artwork from Dylan Garrett Smith. What was the concept you proposed to him for the cover?
TH: We sent him Grail Sludge and an idea and he ran with it and absolutely stayed. The basic concept behind the art is that there are no gods or masters, we are all children of the Earth, and will return to Her upon death.
Hefner on “Perpetual Decline”:
TH: It’s the idea that Space is ever-expanding and the daunting vastness is incomprehensible. Gazing into oneself gives off the same unease as staring into the vast expanse of the Void.
Hefner on “Grail Sludge”:
TH: Kind of challenges the idea behind the art. Are we sure there aren’t any Gods or Masters? The concepts of both are too massive for either side to have definite proof.
Hefner on “Fever Dreams”:
TH: One’s mortality often challenges that of a being with a finite existence. Trying to escape Death will only lead to madness, as he cannot be controlled.
I understand you’re putting together a tour through the South, and you’ve been playing a bunch of shows outside VA. What have been some memorable gigs or incidents you’ve had on the road?
TH: Yeah, we’re trying to miss this cold weather Virginia usually gets pounded with every year. Cold sucks. Our personal favorite was the Montclair, NJ show we played at The Meatlocker. Driving through Jersey ultimately blows, but once we got there it was awesome. The venue was this dope, sketchy-ass basement and the lineup was killer. Can’t wait to play there again!