CD Review

High On Fire

Blessed Black Wing

Relapse Records

High On Fire, the Oakland trio, doesn't wear masks or have a DJ or keyboard player. And there's certainly nothing "Nu" about their metal, but none of that matters. Like labelmates Mastodon, they're part of a big push that is breathing fresh life into the genre, without being "stony" or "doomy." "I try not to use those terms," drummer Des Kensel says of his band's sound. "It's kinda hokey." In all fairness, some might think a band whose lyrics focus on demons and other-worldly creatures might come off a tad hokey, but when that same band is evoking the sound of a late-'70s Motorhead or even an early-'90s Melvins, all is forgiven. But one would be wise not to dismiss High On Fire as another throwback band either.

Singer/guitarist Matt Pike (formerly of Sleep, which may most notably be remembered for their release Jerusalem, a 52-minute album consisting of one song) goes to ridiculous lengths to expound upon simple riffs that soon become complex, head-banging anti-anthems with sludgy grooves and blistering solos.

The group's new album, Blessed Black Wing, will do nothing but push these guys farther up the metal food chain. After two well-received albums, the band recruited bassist Joe Preston and chose indie-rock god Steve Albini to record (not produce) their latest. "I'm a big fan of [Albini's band] Big Black and the last Nirvana album he did," Kensel said. "He can pull off that organic, raw sound."

Indeed Albini can, as anyone familiar with his work will notice right away when "Devilution," the album's first track, starts off with an assault of toms and kicks before the guitar and bass come in to complete the groove. "Silver Black" is a new take on the old concept of thrash while the title track sounds like Slayer minus the reverb.

High On Fire didn't try to reinvent the wheel, they've just repaved the road.

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