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High on Fire - Snakes for the Divine

High on Fire

Snakes for the Divine

(E1 Music)

There’s not a more explosive and propulsive band than the sludgy, doom metal demigods High on Fire. The trio of singer/guitarist Matt Pike, bassist Jeff Matz, and drummer Des Kensel expertly mix maximum riffing, a taste for hard and fast rhythm with nihilistic themes, dark folklore, and twisted historic touchstones, resulting in music ready to sit in your record collection alongside those favorites by Black Sabbath, Motorhead, and Slayer. These guys are master practitioners who prove clearly that they are the best at what they do, and what they do is be badass, in an age when bands that are passed off as “rock” are generally cuter, softer, and fluffier than a bichon frise. Nasty, harsh, and awesome, High on Fire excel at making rock that has real sweat to it: This is lean, mean, hard, and unrelenting metal.

The title track might tell the whole story, as a breakneck flurry of guitars and pounding, unrelenting rhythms steamroll behind Pike as he growls about devils and goats and scourges and wolves. If it doesn’t get better than that, the rest of the record certainly stays on pace.

There’s a posture that comes with making records like this and being this band. Pike particularly—who is considered something of a genre icon, thanks to his work with groundbreaking 1990s doom merchants Sleep—pulls it off with conviction and enough nuance to consistently keep it interesting. Every word is howled or screamed like it might well be his last, and he nastily wields his guitar like an instrument of exactitude and destruction. Hints of psychedelia blend into the ear-bleeding and ferocious feast of metal. “Bastard Samurai” is more tempered and plodding than other parts of Snakes but builds to a fury and cues the prime essentials from the Sabbath playbook. “Holy Flames of the Fire Spitter” is an all-out assault, bearing one of Pike’s most spell-casting solos on the album, and ends things with a serious bang. Do I even have to say it? Play it loud.

Vinyl adherents are urged to check out the two-LP version of Snakes for the Divine, housed in a gatefold sleeve with full artwork and lyrics along with two thick, 180-gram discs, just like the music between the grooves: HEAVY.

donny kutzbach

Editor’s note: Following the news of Dave Grohl’s recent near overdose from coffee (YouTube search: “Dave Grohl in Fresh Pots”), we realized we never did a proper review of one of our favorites from late 2009. It was an oversight, and we’re sorry for the delay. Blame it on our own espresso intake.

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