I have a hard time reviewing albums I really like. It's easier to pick apart a shitty band than praise an established band doing their thing. What makes it harder is I have virtually no theoretical musical background. I don't know a major chord from a minor. A sharp from a flat. An A from a G from a W. I don't even know what an arpeggio is. None of that matters because I know good music when I heard it. The problem is coming up with adjectives other than "awesome". But I'll try.
Frontman Matt Pike has a reputation. A reputation for being in great bands. From the legendary Sleep, to the short-lived Kalas side project, to the juggernaut that is High on Fire, you can be assured there will be high quality. High on Fire's latest album, Snakes for the Divine, is loaded with quality. From the opening dirge of the title track with Pike's fingers dancing over the fretboard, right through to the vocal blast that closes "Holy Flames of the Fire Spitter", there isn't a lemon to be found.
The many facets of the godlike talent and vision of Pike's guitar playing are on full display. Thunderous riffing, galloping rhythms, and masterful soloing paint a picture across the whole album. Pictures of movement, of battles physical, emotional and spiritual.
Of course with a such a formidable frontman, the rhythm section section has to be up to snuff. Jeff Matz and Des Kensel are certainly that. They really are a driving force. Matz doesn't lose a step against Pike and Kensel's drumming creates riffs in itself. The drums may be my favourite part of the album come to think of it. The steering wheel of my car has taken quite the beating the last several weeks. It provides a near constant pummeling with perfectly placed rolls and fills. It should inspire everyone who hears it to take up drums.
What High on Fire review would be complete without making mention of the gravel-throated rasp of Pike's vocals. Think Lemmy but more ravaged and with more range. In a previous life, that voice commanded armies. The fact that he can sing at all while playing guitar the way he does makes my head spin. Anyone outside the metal community (and many in it) would cringe upon hearing it. But in a world that almost shuns vocal perfection, it's the voice of power and passion.
As powerful as this trio is in recorded form, live is how they are meant to be heard. I saw them a few years ago on the first SOTU tour and I get to see them again next month. They are coming to town with Priestess and Skeletonwitch. In a small club. It's gonna be.....(wait for it)....awesome.