Diesto - High as the Sun (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


High as the Sun (2010)

Seventh Rule

There are two ways to approach songwriting. The first is based around a simple chord progression or riff, eked out on a guitar, and filled in with steady drums, bass playing the root of the chord, and lyrics written atop. The second is a bit more conceptual. Something with a bit more composition in mind.

Take another look at "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones again. What started as a three-note guitar line laid down to tape by Keith Richards in his sleep became an international sensational hit. Seemingly, the song fits well into the first camp. But a closer look reveals that Bill Wyman isn't playing the root mirror of Richards' guitar lick, but rather a harmonic counter melody. Amid Brian Jones' light acoustic playing in the background and Charlie Watts' metronome-steady Motown beat, session player Jack Nitzsche's signature syncopated three tambourine hit rounds out the song with an extra touch of flair. The song, it seems, belongs in the latter camp.

With just a simple arrangement of instruments, the band created the impression of a much fuller song. An exercise in compositional theory, examined through the heady looking glass of early rock and roll.

Diesto, too, belongs to this latter camp with their latest release, High as the Sun. These four mostly bearded Portlanders are crafting atmospheric-laden, doom-rooted compositions with an overall approach to songwriting.

Take the title track, for example. What begins with a melodic interplay between two guitars and a bass moves slowly through an early prog experimental movement before it breaks into its crushing main theme--a lurching 3/4 doom waltz. And I say theme on purpose--it's not a riff, but rather a melodic path marked out like a classical composition. The vocals, when they come in follow the same theme, and the piece progresses thusly.

A note on the atmospherics.

The band seems as intent in the notes they're not playing as much as they ones they are hitting. By allowing a certain amount of space to ruminate between their vicious instrumental attacks, and letting different paces dictate the tempo of the songs, the album as a whole seems like a Ennio Morricone score for the modern dark Western. Which would keep in theme with the cowboy death cover art.

There's more melody and movement on High as the Sun than your standard doom album, and there's a certain heaviness and darkness present that you won't find on any prog albums. But it's the quality of songwriting that stands out above it all and garners the most interest.