Having heard High on Fires first two albums, I wasn’t very impressed, but I liked what I heard and decided to check out, “Blessed Black Wings" and boy what a surprise this turned out to be. Sub-Par production doesn’t really ruin an album for me, but on the other hand better production can make already good songs, GREAT. Steve Albini, formerly of Big Black did a truly masterful job on the production of this album, instead of trying to make them sound as dense as possible he made them sound as loud, and heavy, and pounding as possible.
The albums opener, "Devilution" picks up exactly where the previous album “Surrounded by Thieves" closer “Razor Hoof" left off, with extremely powerful tribal sounding drums that put you right in the groove for the rest of the album. The songs intro riff then starts and gets you going even harder. This track has got a bit of a thrash metal feel to it. The songs lyrics are cheesy… fine, that’s ok with me; it’s called “Devilution", what more do you want? After the all out onslaught that was Devilution, comes, "The Face of Oblivion"this song starts of fuzzy and loud, but slows it down considerably compared to the previous track. This is the more “traditional" High on Fire sound, almost sounding a bit like early Sleep with its well done melodic passages. The lighter part of this song are well done, and fit nicely, because they still caries a very ominous vibe, but once Pike starts singing, all sense of serenity are gone, his singing doesn’t really seem to “do" Melodic. He is still going to be popping blood vessels as he squeezes every last bit of breath out of his black lungs. The remainder of the song carries a very urgent feel, and comes to a close in the same fashion most other High on Fire songs end, with a reprise of the main riff and a slide.
The following track "Brothers in the Wind“ has a very epic feel to it, the lyrics talk about journeys, and keys, and again… all kinds of cheesy stuff;
Where have I wandered my father?
Led like lamb to my slaughter
Truth has awakened the dreamer
Hand I the keys to the keeper
…Cheesy lyrics aside, Pikes delivery on this one is phenomenal, and so is his guitar playing, the riffs of the song are fantastic, and the solo on this track rips I love every second of this song and its one of the best on the album
In a nice contrast to the crash and boom of Brothers in the Wind, "Cometh down Hessian" starts of lightly played guitar and bass feedback fading in and out until the drums crash in, and a killer riff comes in. This is another one of the much faster songs on the album, very angry vocals very fast riffs, its everything I love about metal, with more tribal drumming, and crunchy as hell bass: Des Kensel, and Joe Preaston keep the rhythm tight.. This is a fun song to listen to, it really gets the head banging going (to sound clichéd), but it’s one of the weaker songs on the album. Wicked riffage and pounding beats are what await at the beginning of the next song and album title track "Blessed Black Wings". This song is about one of Pikes many vices; cocaine. The lyrics on this song are very good, and are very personal:
“Pleasure's treasures leave me hypnotized
Blacking out, follow the trail of lies
Demons seen with a knife in back
Eat your mouth out with your cocaine slack
Shadow powder makes me come alive
Walking zombie mumbles depressed sighs
The blood I bleed must be black indeed
Seek the devil in my time of need"
The lyrics seem repentative about his habits but, he can’t quite give them up. About halfway through the track, hell breaks loose and you feel like you’re on a binge riding the white pony with Pike… This part is absolutely chaotic, with hectic vocals and awesome guitar aplenty. The song kind of drags until you hear this and then you think “Hell Yeah!" the song ends the same way it started. For me Blessed Black Wings is the best song on the album.
Blessed Black Wings is a tough act to follow, sadly “Anointing of Seer is not really up to the challenge, the song starts with a grinding riff and just keeps grinding it into your head while weaving you tales of Damsels in distress, and more cheesy things like that. This is a good song with a good solo but the lack of variety really doesn’t help it, considering the prior song. To cross the bridge" is an epic track that starts with nice medieval folk style guitar that is accompanied by crushing chords that start churning slowly, and compliment the howling of Matt pike to perfection. This song weaves tales of barbarians and armies crossing… you guessed it, a bridge. This is another very well done song that sounds like the older material. It then goes into a mellow kind of breakdown followed by a blistering solo; this solo defines the term epic, while not very long winded and over-blown, it’s tasteful and you can feel the emotion felt while playing it. After that the song slows down and eventually ends on a very powerful note.
High on fire are all about kickin’ ass, and they don’t care whose ass. "Silverback" is also about kickin’ ass, music-wise its nothing special but its heavy as hell the whole way through. Lyrically its genius:
"Drive the fist into your face
And blacken your eye
Unearthly sounds rumble guts
And stomp your insides
Riffs have come, your fate is sung,
Don’t even try
Blacks the set, kills all the rest,
The slay masters fly"
O.K. maybe not genius but you don’t get too much more awesome then those lyrics. To recap Silverback: it’s purely a song about kickin’ ass, and it’s executed well.
The album closes with the softest song HoF have ever recorded, "Sons of Thunder" it starts of calm and slow but eventually rages into a more recognizable sound about a minute and a half through, this is a great song and a well written instrumental. It just kind of seems weird this song seems more appropriate to me to be put at the beginning of the album. But still it’s a good song regardless of position, and it makes a pretty damn good closer either way.
To me Blessed Black Wings is the best thing High on Fire have released so far, its defiantly a good pick up of your into sludge metal, or are looking to get into sludge metal or just like music that’s really, really heavy. This was probably my favorite release of 2005 so I figured I would do a complete over-haul of my prior review (which sucked), so anyway thanks for reading and pick up this album it’s wicked.