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High Tide - Sea Shanties CD (album) cover

SEA SHANTIES

High Tide

 

Heavy Prog

3.80 | 156 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

FragileKings
3 stars The first progressive metal band? I was looking for early prog metal of the 80's when High Tide's name was mentioned with such a bold reference. Well, certainly it's credible that a form of prog metal issued from 1969 as both prog and metal were coalescing in their respective forms out of the nebulous cloud of experimental music of the psychedelic years. I was interested and after a quick sampling on YouTube I ordered "Sea Shanties" from Amazon.

I was walking to the train station when the first chords of "Futilist's Lament" stormed into ears. Really gritty grungy distorted guitar, then the rhythm section, then a monstrously heavy second guitar? No, it was the violin! Yes, High Tide employed two lead instruments: the 'ber-fuzzed guitar and a violin that was going to surprise me in the range of sounds it had contributed to this album. Right from the start there was this bombastic heavy guitar sound that quickly switched to Jimmy Page's violin bow on guitar to a more traditional albeit electric violin sound.

The vocals immediately left me wondering whether I would find that they work or that they were better off elsewhere. For the most part they sound like Jim Morison but at times the vocalist abruptly reaches for higher notes, which he can hit, but the transition comes off as a less than impressive karaoke performance. Nevertheless, the song thunders along with the violin making an impressive companion to the guitar. This is not King Crimson violin here but a different beast.

I rather like the guitar soloing which seems to combine and bridge leftover techniques from the late 60's with forthcoming approaches of the 70's. The solo repeats itself in places but just when you wonder if this is going to be a recycling loop of ideas, the main riff returns and the intro is repeated. After one more round of verse chorus the song comes to an abrupt close.

"Death Warmed Up" is a 9-minute plus instrumental, and you'd probably figure that with that much time there should be room to create different moods and changes of tempo. But no. This is nine minutes of heavy rock guitar and gritty violin soloing. Of course there's structure. Resembling early Deep Purple instrumentals, there's a main theme, solo section, repeat of the main theme, more soloing and a return to the main theme again. After that the number charges on with the same pounding pace and the guitar takes over mostly alternating between bursts of high notes and explosions of distortion. Though at times it's easy for my mind to wander, I come back to the music amazed that these guys just careen along like an overloaded steam train for over nine minutes without slowing down or resting.

We finally take a break from the wash of distortion with "Pushed, but not Forgotten," which sounds very Doorsy until the guitar distortion comes back on. The song's basic structure is soft-hard-soft-hard-soft. At this point I am better accepting the vocals. It's also worthy of mention the violin again as it adds some interesting sounds including what sounds like wah-wah guitar and some eerily pretty high notes.

"Walking Down Their Outlook" begins with most 60's-sounding performance of the album until the guitar and violin contribute a touch of Baroque. There are some heavy bombastic moments too but just when it seems this song is going to morph into another explosion of distortion it takes on yet another form, and then switches back to the 60's sound. The violin is given more solo room here in this song too. By the fourth listen I found myself liking this song more.

"Missing Out" sounds like a fuzzy Doors' blues number at first with violin. The vocals are more expressive here but sound like a tortured Jim Morison. With 9:41 of time you can guess there will be some significant song space devoted to soloing. But the vocal segments keep returning, so there's no super lengthy jam here although some of the soloing goes on a bit. Just before 8 minutes it looks like there's going to be a drum solo but the band only tease and wisely steer clear and instead add more noisome guitar and some violin that at times seems a bit at a loss for what to play.

"Nowhere" opens with an instrumental section. By now there's there's not much new here. The sound of the album has long been established. I do like some of the melody lines played played by the violin. These stand out for me. It gives the song a country feel which I normally wouldn't like but it works here.

The extended CD includes three additional tracks that were recorded for the album but wouldn't fit on and were thus culled, and two demos which are not remarkable. "The Great Universal Racket" might be exactly that to some. It is a long instrumental that jumps from style to style, including heavy doomy guitar, friendly rock guitar with wah-wah effects courtesy of the violin, heavy country rock, more Baroque mixed in heavy rock, an acid rock traditional Chinese segment, and several others. It reminds of Norwegian prog rockers, Wobbler's instrumental that only just establish a groove or riff and the move on. This plays like a medley, constantly changing tempo and rhythm. Many parts repeat, so whether you think this is genius or someone's taking the mickey is up to you. I still can't decide if it's brilliant or just sonic clutter.

"Dilemma" also goes through some changes including an almost Sabbath-esque metal section with some Blue Cheer mixed in, and some pseudo prog work. The vocal parts are slower and thankfully there's more energy put into the higher register singing adding variety. Then the vocals change to southern rock and Jim Morison is all but gone. It becomes another gritty rocker for guitar and violin. Good on its own but very much like the rest of the album.

The demos are next with a slightly shorter version of "Death Warmed Up" and also "Pushed, but not Forgotten". I find the album versions are better and I usually skip these.

"Time Gauge" is the last number and again more of what we've already heard: raunchy gritty guitar, violin, paces changes, steady supporting rhythm section, doses of distortion, mixed styles, classical suggestions, and so on. As a constantly changing instrumental, this is similar to "The Great Universal Racket" but a little sloppy here and there, or so I feel. Good in places but not a highlight.

I can't say the album will be a long-time favourite but there will be songs I'll come back to. To sum the album up neatly, I quote the Allmusic review from the Wikipedia page for "Sea Shanties":

"High Tide had the muscularity of a no-nonsense proto-metal band, but they also ventured into prog territory with changing time signatures and tempos, soft-hard dynamics, multi-part arrangements, and even some ornate faux-Baroque interludes."

FragileKings | 3/5 |

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