Diesto, High as the Sun: Well, That’s Pretty Damn High

Heavy without being oppressive and familiar without being redundant, Portland, Oregon, post-sludgers Diesto’s second album, High as the Sun (first for Seventh Rule Recordings) is an hour of righteously brutal ambience made flesh with crunching riffs, post-metal rhythmic churn, hypnotically chanted vocals and drone just where it’s needed most. The four-piece seem modern in their influence, but as much as one could point to YOB, Kylesa and more recent A Storm of Light for comparisons, elements of Unsane, Earth, Oceanic-era Isis, Neurosis and Sleep are also audible, and the range of vocal presentation from guitarists Chris Dunn and Mark Basset helps bring to the fore the fierce dynamics on which High as the Sun is built.

Recorded by Adam Pike in the band’s hometown and mixed by Alex Newport on the other side of the country in Brooklyn, New York, High as the Sun offers glimpses of surprisingly adept melodicism. Not so much in the vocals, which despite being mostly clean are still chiefly rhythmic in their nature — Dunn and/or Basset aren’t crooning by any stretch, but they do well with what they do à la Phillip Cope — but in the guitars, and, as in the later section of opener “Beyond the Graves,” Captain John’s bass. It’s clear Diesto were reaching with this album, challenging themselves creatively. I hear hardcore or post-hardcore roots in their playing, though that could just be the Isis influence shining through. Nonetheless, although digging into High as the Sun will probably not be a challenge to sludge-heads or post-metallers checking it out — it’s worth noting I don’t completely consider Diesto post-metal, despite their focus on atmosphere — the record still has plenty of intricacies that justify the time.

And at just under 57 minutes, that time is a significant investment. A song like “Lowlight,” contrasted somehow by the preceding title track in a way more than just the high/low interplay, feels longer at 10:37 than does the 11:04 lurching highlight “All Eyes upon You.” I respect Diesto’s management of pace and tempo in the songs, and kudos to drummer Scott Ulrich for having the rare ability to make playing slow sound easy, which anyone who’s ever tried to do it will tell you it’s not. Ulrich and the good Captain are responsible for most of High as the Sun’s underlying groove, and where one gets the impression that without them Dunn and Basset might go off on a spree of ambient droning, their contributions keep the songs grounded, allowing for the chorus of “High as the Sun” to border on catchy or at least memorable while still being crushingly heavy.

“High as the Sun” is the shortest track Diesto present on the album of the same name, and possibly the tightest. Closer “The Longest Day” culls its heaviness from the angularity of riffing on the part of Basset and Dunn, and the track must be a solid closer, because I imagine myself hearing it in some basement club, so drunk I can barely keep my eyes open, nodding out of consciousness and being snapped back by each of Ulrich’s crash hits. “The Longest Day” is the most effective build on High as the Sun, but Diesto don’t seem like a band bent on structure as much as putting the right parts next to each other, so it’s almost moot to point it out. Nonetheless, the finale is another strong showing among the total six on High as the Sun, and I’d happily recommend the album to anyone looking to bridge the gap between more simplistic stoner fare and the punishing atmospherics currently ruling the day in modern doom.

Diesto’s website (with songs)

Seventh Rule Recordings

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