Sound — 9
"The Higher Key" is the second album by the New Zealander stoner rock band Arc Of Ascent, and let me say, a great follow up to their debut album, "Circle Of The Sun", which is also killer, and if you're into stoner rock, you should check this out as soon as you can. The band's lineup consists of multi-instrumentalist Craig Williamson, which sings and plays bass and other instruments like keyboards and sitar, Sandy Schaare on guitar and John Strange on the drums. Here, we get another good dose of rock and roll, with the instruments sounding even more powerful than in their debut album, everything developing a storm of heavy riffs, wah-filled solos and a simple and strong rhythm section. So, about this album, let's give it a few descriptions: here we got "The Celestial Altar", kicking off the album at full force, with riffs sounding like a mix of Kyuss and Black Sabbath, allied to a wah storm adding great solos to it. Other songs following the same pattern are "Redemption", "Land Of Tides" and "Elemental Kingdom" (dude, this last one got one hell of a heavy, doom-oriented riff). The band also explores their psychedelic vein very well, something that always been a great courtesy of Craig Williamso. You can hear that on "Search For Liberation", varying between some beautiful and calm psychedelic tripping to heaviness and the final track, "Through The Rays Of Infinity" and its 9 minutes of total insanity joining forces with loads of wah, which even reminds me of one of Craig's former projects, Lamp Of The Universe. So, cutting things short here: this is an eargasm to any fan of stoner rock.
Lyrics — 9
Lyrics here are on the band's standards, once again talking about all sorts of unreal stuff, tripping and spiritual things, something that arguably fits perfectly on the "trippy" atmosphere of their compositions. About Craig's voice, while it may not be the most outstanding voice ever, it also fits perfectly in the band's sounding and it's versatile enough to sound powerful in the heavier bits (like on "Elemental Kingdom") and compositions and also sound calm and psychedelic when it needs (like on "Through The Rays Of Infinity"), and that is more than enough to make me give this guy some kudos.
Overall Impression — 9
So, if you're a fan of stoner rock/metal and still haven't listened to this album, do it now and order it! Or even if you never heard of/listened to these guys, do it now too, because you're missing some good music! This mix of psychedelia and wild riffage never fails to amaze me, and this band makes it in a very competent way. I would point "The Celestial Altar" and "Search For Liberation" as the best tunes on this album, but honestly, if you're into the cited genres, you're probably not going to find a single flaw on this album, or will at least keep your interest on it. I will absolutely buy this again if it gets lost, stolen, or something.