Review Summary: Call it progressive, call it sludge, call it stoner, or just refer to it as High On Fire.
I am a fan of Mastodon, and I liked their most recent album Crack The Skye, but to me nothing has ever reached the primal aggression that their music had on Remission. Then I heard High On Fire, it was like someone had taken all that aggression and fury I loved, threw it into a cage with a wolverine, and then served the shredded remains with a glass of kickass on the side.
High On Fire’s songs on Death Is This Communion are VERY fast and they rampage along their own path, taking many twist and turns that give them that progressive feel to their music. The guitar is heavy and punishing and doesn’t hesitate to break out into a blistering solo such as in the song “Waste of Tiamat.” A song that really showcases their ability to create a song that slithers and creeps along at its own pace but still has the substance to hold your attention and keep you interested and banging your head is “Death Is This Communion.” Middle eastern influences are found throughout the entire album especially in some of the tracks such as “Khanrad’s Wall” where a sitar is used.
The tracks are great as stand alones or as a piece all together, for instance “Khanrad’s Wall” serves as a break after the slow and twisting “Death Is This Communion” and sets the stage for the drum dominated track “Turk” to kick in. “Rumors Of War” leads into “Dii” and if you are not paying attention to the track by track you would think they are the same song. The ending of “Cyclopian Scape” slows and lightens the tone and melds perfectly with “Ethereal.” This serves to hold your interest and really engulf you in this primal and brutal world they are creating with their lyrics.
Matt Pike is a great guitarist and his vocals are equally impressive, his low and raspy voice compliments the guitar’s low and almost muffled sound perfectly. Jeff Matz’s bass is stellar and is heard throughout the entire album, and gives the music’s low end a boost, helping to create that sludge/stoner sound that they are so known for.
Now on to my favorite part, the drums. Des Kensel beats his drum kit up like it owes him money, and it sounds amazing. Take “Rumors Of War” where the beat he creates gives the music an ominous marching sound, as if towards some type of battle. “Turk,” like mentioned before is a track where he really sets the tempo and dominates the song with his drumming. You won’t find machine gun double bass or simple snare-cymbal beats here, only thick, heavy, progressive drumming.
High On Fire is a breath of fresh air for metal fans in a genre full of stale breakdowns, repetitive vocals and generic guitars. This is not for everyone, this is for someone who wants to be transported to another time and get a taste of something fresh from their music all while still banging their head in enjoyment.