As heavy metal builds and expands its borders (sometimes to its detriment), the idea of the genre flag bearers gets cloudier. Yeah, there are a ton of great bands out there, but having one that is a standard bearer, a mighty conqueror of worlds is getting tougher to find. Thankfully we still have High on Fire in our midst.
As people’s cynicism grows and underground metal fans make an art of turning their backs on bands that suddenly aren’t their own to horde in a corner, High on Fire have managed to rise above all of that. Who doubts them? They’ve remained true to themselves and their audience, and over seven full-length albums and nearly two decades as a group, High on Fire have gotten stronger and more venomous as time has gone on. Their brand new album “Luminiferous” is more of the good shit – catapulting riffs, barked vocal fury, drumming that’ll level your house, and pure metal that’s honest and crushing to the core. Having found a kindred spirit in producer Kurt Ballou, the band’s sound has gotten even more muscular over the past two records, and what they unveil on this seventh platter is a band with sharp teeth, violent intent, and the perfect amount of fantastical weirdness.
HighIn front of the band is the mighty Matt Pike, whose guitar work and massive vocals are some of the most distinctive in all of the genre. The man’s been through his trials and tribulations as of late, doing a stint to get himself healthy after their last album “De Vermis Mysteriis” that obviously did him a world of good. He’s on top of his game on this record. Of course along with him are bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensel, and damn, are they just killing on all cylinders. Lyrically, Pike and crew are firing back against the powers that be, throwing their venom against government, religion, and, well, the lizard people who very well could be embodying the hearts and minds of the world’s leaders. Hey, not like these guys made up that theory. It just adds more fuel to what’s already a massive High on Fire blaze.
Opener “The Black Plot” gives you a dose of what to expect right from the start. The riffs charge up and crush, and Pike’s trademark yowl sounds as strong as ever, really benefiting the track’s powerful chorus that sticks in your head. The bulk of this stampedes hard, with blazing soloing and the rhythm section looking to decimate you. Smothering “Carcosa” trudges hard, with plenty of bluesy swagger, which pretty much is the story of this one. The thickness creates impenetrable darkness, with guitars buzzing, psychedelic haze rising, and the soloing spitting fire. It’s pretty much seven minutes of metallic sludge spread thick and rich. “The Sunless Years” also stampedes, with some really strong singing from Pike and excellent soloing. Melody is intertwined with the violence, with Pike howling, “He shows insecure confidence/He’s out of his mind!” as the song absolutely barnstorms. As heavy as things have been to the point, “Slave the Mind” manages to up the ante. The assault is thrash-minded and relentless, with the vocals practically spat out, the melodies sounding diabolical, and the double-kick drums blowing the doors off this thing. It’s a punisher. “The Falconist” then goes in another direction, pulling back a bit, letting Pike do some cleaner singing over the chorus, and still unleashing fire, but in a more calculated pace. It’s one hell of a song, one that’ll conjure dream imagery in your mind as you hear Pike unleash the tale. There even is a classic-style solo section that feels like it’s from metal’s past canon, which is exhilarating.
“The Dark Side of the Compass” is thunderous and mean, with hazy humidity hanging over the chorus and guitars just wailing. Pike’s soloing cuts through the mire, and the track comes to a volcanic end. “The Cave” is one of the most interesting songs in High on Fire’s catalog, one that could raise the ire of those same-thing-all-the-time types, who will be missing out on a potential classic. The verses are calm and plodding, with Pike unveiling a clean singing voice (albeit clouded by a blanket of noise) that’s effective and fits the atmosphere ideally. Of course, crunch emerges on the choruses, with Pike’s gravelly voice punching holes, but that moodiness always comes back. This is one hell of a song and could be a breakthrough cut toward an even larger audience. That’s not a bad thing at all. The title track is next, and it’s a brief (for them) rumble that lets the dust kick up again before the dense, mud-caked closer “The Lethal Chamber.” This is High on Fire at its sludgiest, with warped guitars smothering, a thrashy sense of violence taking over, and Pike pushing his throat to the limit with his howls. The riffs just keep on coming, with a final blast of Pike lead guitar magic to burn brightly. The whole thing finally fades away, taking its bizarre, paranoid imagery right along with it.
All hail High on Fire, one of metal’s most reliable bands and true elite warriors of the genre. This band has taken its bruises and climbed many mountains to get where they are, and “Luminiferous” is another wailing slab of tried-and-true heavy metal. As long as Pike and his warriors are rolling this hard, they are going to be tough to match, and seven records in, they remain some of metal’s greatest warriors.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/highonfire
To buy the album, go here: http://us.eonemusic.com/genres/metal/catalog
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