Review Summary: Burgeoning heavy metal loaded with influences, this is metal as it was meant to be made. Also, Matt Pike riffs like hell.
From the ashes of Sleep rises yet another high functioning metal band, the Matt Pike led High on Fire. As opposed to groovy, foggy stoner metal atmospheres, we get something much more high energy and heavier. As seen on their debut The Art of Self Defense
, High on Fire sort of started off with a mesh of the groove-oriented sound of Sleep’s Holy Mountain
with heavier riffing and darker lyricism, only slightly less sedated than Sleep’s material. With their sophomore effort, Surrounded By Thieves
, we get a bulk more heaviness and less groove, which works into a mind jogging, no frills, heavy metal record that doesn’t really grow on you.
Surrounded by Thieves
hasn’t completely lost the Sleep brand distortion pit, quite the contrary. It’s an album, despite it’s 80s-esqe pulsating rhythms and black metal inspired howls, is still covered with sludgy riffs, and slows down every chance it can. What differ in this effort from others are influences. Sleep was more influenced by 70s rock and drugs, and as a result, it’s bed of distortion rested upon bands like Black Sabbath and it grooved a bit more and felt some melody. High on Fire’s sound on this album is low on frills, high on pure metal. Groggy, down-toned riffs, aggressive shouts, spiraling solos, this is metal as it was meant to be made. In short, Surrounded by Thieves
is a metal album made by metalheads for metalheads, as opposed to stoner metal for stoners. There are still minor slips of stonerisms, like the vocal effects and slow paced of the Doom-esqe “The Yeti (Vallad Of)”, but by this album those were starting to disappear in favor of their newer sound. Nowadays, it’s hard to picture High on Fire coming from Sleep, which is a mixed blessing, but at least we now know Matt Pike can absolutely shred on his guitar. What a relief.