Hamburg based stoner-doom-sludge outfit High Fighter are back once again and ready to bring the filth this summer. With their first album, “Scars & Crosses” considered to be a success with how it blended fuzz-laden riffs with exotic flair, schizophrenic vocal delivery and plenty of groove. This has helped the band achieve quite the touring resume by hitting both major European festivals and touring with some of the current elite in the stoner/sludge/doom family. Appearances at the likes of Wacken and Desertfest London, touring with the likes of Conan, Corrosion Of Conformity and Crowbar, the German five-piece have certainly been forging ahead and all signs point to ‘Champain’ showing that there is no sign of slowing down in the near future.

Whilst the band’s first album “Scars & Crosses” brought that doom and sludge influence to the desert inspired sound, blending the hazy and exotic flair with some filth and groove, “Champain” is the polar opposite. Faster, heavier, more intense and a lot more filthy, “Champain” is loaded with groove still, but it isn’t quite the ‘kick back and enjoy’ that the first album was. Yes, there are some moments across the release where it eases off a little on the intensity and harshness, but for the majority of the release, it’s darker and a lot heavier. Opening track “Before I Disappear” displays the difference between the two releases immediately. Its dissonant intro gives way to a massive distorted wall of harsh noise, propped up by a pounding rhythm section packing tons of low end thunder. Harsh screams which wouldn’t be out of place on a Weedeater album make up the majority of the vocal delivery, giving way in parts to a warmer and powerful clean voice and the guitars switch from pounding to piercing when required to keep things going with minimal fuss.

“Shine Equal Dark” is a faster paced follow up number, again loaded with intense roaring vocals and low end heaviness. Clever use of clean melodies over the thundering bass and riffs adds a good edge where it surfaces and the screaming wah-pedal sections go hand in hand with the intense air around the track, adding a little flavour to the filthy music, something which High Fighter do well. Combining the flair and slightly exotic elements of the stoner/desert style with the rawness of the sludge sounds, the way they can blend the clean passages with the distorted ones works rather well and this can be heard on “Dead Gift” and on the 7-minute long “Another Cure”, both featuring clever transitions and combinations of clean and harsh at the same time to add to the overall sound and work in some clever atmospheric effects.

The stand out track of the release has to be “I Will Not” which is 5 minutes of pure attitude driven, sludgy sounding desert rock inspired groove. The rumbling bass and pounding drums give way to a howl of feedback which brings in the adrenaline pumping groove riff which is accompanied by vocals which just drip with attitude and power. Whether it is in the clean singing bits or the screamed sections, everything on this track just clicks together perfectly, especially in the extended bridge section where the surging pace and gradual shift from harmonized vocals to raw screams acts as the highlight of the track. Anton Lisovoj (Downfall Of Gaia) lends his talents to the hard hitting “When We Suffer” which has some hazy hypnotic melodies, hook laden riff work. The dual vocal lines work well in the clean sections, adding a lower melody and when the growls come in, along with the pounding foot stomping groove it turns into a wild beast of a track which is well worth listening to!By the time “Champain”, the closing track rolls round with its high octane tempo and wild and sleazy vibes, you get the feeling that this album is the start of something special. Whilst it may have some similarities to the band’s earlier releases, “Champain” shows how High Fighter have grown. The band have tempered their sound, keeping the parts which helped it have some character and flair whilst sharpening their edge and bringing out the raw and ferocious side of sludge. Heavy, groovy, wild and hypnotic, “Champain” is certainly worth popping the cork on and enjoying this summer!

(7/10 Fraggle)