Review Summary: The legends of their craft, the mighty riff, do not disappoint. Even more aggressive than previous work and slightly more focused, "Snakes for the Divine" is a great example of what metal should be.10 of 11 thought this review was well written
Let it be known, Matt Pike has crafted some of the greatest riffs in metal. Even Iommi of Black Sabbath cites Sleep’s Holy Mountain as one of his favorite albums. After Sleep disbanded, Pike would create High on Fire and continued forging a legacy in metal. Not to be a fanatic but, I believe High on Fire to be epitome of metal without coming across as cliché or cheesy. They have no stupid costumes or gimmicks. HoF doesn’t try to over compensate by focusing on being extremely technical or extremely heavy. They find a perfect balance somewhere between the stoner side of doom and thrash. Each of their tracks oozes a kind of soul that is kind of rare in metal these days.
That being said, I was pretty disappointed when I saw that Greg Fidelman (Deathmagnet, World Painted Blood) would be producing the album. A lot of fans feared some kind of cleaned up, overproduced sound would emerge on the new record. The polished sound is definitely there on “Snakes” but it hasn’t drained any of their heaviness. “Death is this Communion” was a bit more varied in sound and that was definitely a step forward for HoF but “Snakes” goes back to the core and refines it. Becoming more straightforward works great, especially for a band so badass.
It’s easy to see the NWOBHM influence on the title and opening track with the incendiary melodic arpeggios kicking it off. That track is a great example of their craftsmanship and it embodies their sound completely. Kensel really tears things up on drums, displaying even more energy than before with his crushing warlike rhythms, blasts and fills. Matz on bass lays out a great foundation as always even though the guitar and vocals are always in the forefront. Pike’s vocals are gnarly as ever, even more up close and personal. He also does a decent bit of clean, melodic singing on a few tracks. It’s hard not to feel the intensity when you hear everything drop out except him roaring “FROSTHAMMER!” “Bastard Samurai” and “How Dark We Pray” are some of the slower paced, more monolithic tracks on the album and pack a huge punch.
The solos on “How Dark We Pray” are some of the most creative and majestic in their discography. They stand out especially on this album because most of the other tracks have Pike furiously flying all over the frets on his solos. Although that never gets old, it’s great to hear something more unique. In the last 30 seconds of “How Dark We Pray”, Pike lets forth this spine chilling incantation which adds a small touch to an already amazing track. While Pike’s lyrics have never really been mind blowing, they always do their job and sound way cooler in song. I still place “Blessed Black Wings” at the top of the band’s discography but “Snakes” is definitely my #2. If you weren’t a fan before, I don’t think there is enough of an evolution here to change your mind.
“Snakes” is very true to the band’s roots. The album will probably be their most well received, not only because the production makes it a little more accessible but because of a certain band’s rise to fame. Yeah, I’m talking about Mastodon, the band who actually got together to play music because they met each other at a HoF show. If High on Fire inspired one of the biggest juggernauts in metal today, what does that make them? I’d say legendary, and “Snakes” is yet another testament to that, sales be damned.