High Tone Son Of A Bitch – “Lifecycles: EPs of HTSOB” 2CD (Tee Pee Records)
Battle Helm Rating
With members and collaborators from bands like Melvins, Hawkwind, Neurosis, High on Fire, Hammers of Misfortune, The Skull, and more, it’s to see why High Tone Son Of A Bitch (HTSOB) are regarded in many circles as something of a cult band. Originally formed from the ashes of Oakland prog/doom sludge masters Cruevo by the Kott brothers, Paul and Andrew on guitars in 2002, and preceding the Matt Pike fronted Bay Area metal supergroup Kalas, HTSOB went on to release their “Better You Than Me” EP in 2003, building their own status until tragically cut short by Andrew Kott’s death in 2008. Taking almost a decade to mourn the passing of his brother, it wasn’t until 2018, when persuaded by his Grammy winning nephew Juan Herrera (Andrew’s step son) that the band was revived by Paul, if anything to allow his brother’s inspiration to live on. “Lifecycles: EPs of HTSOB” is a compendium of the 4 EPs that HTSOB have issued, covering 13 songs including 3 previously unreleased versions that go the full distance in conveying why this band were – and continues to be – so regarded. Taking in heavy stoner, psych and doom in varying quantities and across a range of tempos, HTSOB’s sound is consistently massive, with a rich, dense sound from the thick, reverb soaked guitars of Paul Kott and Pamela Ausejo (AC/DShe, Cruevo) backed by Billy Anderson’s (Melvins, Porn, Blessing The Hogs) equally gargantuan bass and Russ Kent’s (Noothgrush, Granite Rock, Messiah, Rogue) laid back but passionate vocals. Opening with ‘Ten Mountain High’ the warm guitars exude stoner reverb with plenty of feedback before settling into a hard rockin’ groove given plenty of balls though Anderson’s bass and the hammering drums of Eric Rancourt (Clan of Dyad, Eastern Spell, Ghosthunter) especially noting the epic rhythmic changes which are staple of today’s bands like High On Fire – fantastic. With the stoner doom mix fully charged on ‘Better You Than Me’ through a mix of earthy warbles and ultra catchy droning guitars, the power is nothing short of immense in inducing headbanging possession while Rancourt’s equally intense cymbal work all but takes up the backing sound, leaving Kent sounding like he’s drowning in the power although it all works to brilliant effect. In contrast is the emotionally intense, 8-minute ‘John The Baptist’ with its slow, muddy bass superbly offset by a melancholic, bluesy guitar and Kent exuding plenty of heartbreak to create an epic number that during its heavier guitar moments is reminiscent of Crowbar’s swamp metal while elsewhere is southern rock at its most soulful – awesome. Transcending death and illuminating a path to rebirth, “Lifecycles: EPs of HTSOB” is simply unmissable.