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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Sludge: Your Highness - Blue Devils (EP)

Well, put tits on an album cover and you'll fool anyone. Throw wings on the girl and it's hard to argue. But I'd better not find disappointment when I crack the plastic. It worked when I was a sprung teenager and went half-mast every time I played Ween's Chocolate and Cheese or QOTSA's self-titled. Tits or slates, those were incredible, formative albums that helped mold me into the sensitive, respectful stoner-sludge misanthrope that today slouches before you. But poseurs like Atreyu and Saving Abel have picked up on the seductive draw of shadowed skin and used it to scam both squirrel and tickets. So I don't dare go all Lita Ford and let my dick make a purchase.

Belgium's Your Highness stunned sludge-slingers in 2011 with their three-track Cults n' Cunts, a blues-metal barrage of stoner-sludge groove. Here on Blue Devils, they don't rely on trickery or sex (fun cover, though) to sell their sound, they simply pluck muddy southern dive-bar fist pumps and an aggressive sludge swamp sting akin to Alabama Thunderpussy and Grizzly. What results is three fucking killer tracks searing your flesh and banging your head.

Down-tuned, deep fried, and more than a tad despondent, Low Country Exiles sets off stickin' a fuzzy finger straight into the mist. Vocals scrape to make sense of a barren wasteland, faced with the death of what was once promising. As thick as it is, Your Highness have no trouble kicking into high gear, intermittent with fur and oozing at the corners with sticky sweetness. Steady drum puddles somehow manage to keep pace with a bass thread stapled to stoner guitar chops. Stop licking your sutures, pooch.

Follow that up with Wrack and Ruin and you've got a shared torment. Slow-grooved and violent, this retributive slab brims and buzzes with the confidence that comes from thickened skin. The sand-blasting of coiled angst is absolutely delicious, lighting a match under rhythms as guitars hover and slice through everything in sight. The murky solos and drowning hope formulate a bouncing confederate sludge that might help you forget about the dead hooker under the mattress.

If eighteen minutes doesn't sound like it'd suffice, just trust me. The title-track closer may wave a white flag, but it also might be your enemy's final gasp of deception. Here a scratchy, bluesy slide geetar swells into a dense thicket of endless, thorny jabs. Laid-back? Maybe. But Your Highness are never off their guard. Drenched in fuzz and chasing gnarled gravel with sloshed whiskey, the band breaks midway to stomp toward the creek and bury their secrets. The screech to a halt breeds a Warren Haynes slide step before exploding into a wet Appalachia moonshine toast of sweat and soil. Goddamn, how'd we get here? And how long can we stay?

My buddy Zac lit up my day when he introduced this EP. And now, little man, I pass this on to you. There's so much stoner-sludge goodness resonating from these three tracks that I doubt you'll notice the tits. What you will notice, over time, is a drift in your attention to hygiene, day-to-day tasks, and interpersonal relationships. It's easy to see how eighteen minutes can evolve into several days, given your inability to stop the bleeding. Your Highness don't rely on gimmicks, they just sludge-n-roll with the snarl of an old dog trotting for scraps. When the skin starts to sag, Blue Devils is still gonna have plenty o' bite.

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