There is something very Viking about High On Fire. I don’t know, maybe not Viking, but definitely battle scarred warriors driven into conflict brandishing swords. When Matt Pike plugs into an amp, good things happen. Riffs smash about and leads cut through the air like so many ninja stars. Some critics have become very involved in Pike’s lyrical content. Aliens. Conspiracy theories. Inside jobs. Some say it’s informed, others call it crazy. Who cares? Pike could be barking out his favorite birthday cake recipes, as long as he’s growling over those goddamn mammoth riffs, let the man alone.
The latest armored mastodon that High On Fire has entered into battle is titled Luminiferous. What does it sound like? Crashing drums, bass that rattles your bones into dust and riffs that fire like a broken AK-47 held by a vibrating robot with a death wish. It’s big. It’s loud. It’s High On Fire. Richard Pryor once said about Leon Spinks, “Leon what do you do? I knock motherfuckers out.” That’s what High On Fire does. They knock motherfuckers out.
Luminiferous is a massive uppercut to the glass jaw of rock. Seriously, let’s be honest. The world of heavy rock has seen better days. While bands like Full Of Hell and Obliterations have broken the back of hardcore and grindcore, the world of heavy rock is seriously lacking any scary threats. Rock needs a viable threat to keep it scary. High On Fire is that band. They’re like a rock Brock Lesnar, suplecsing the mind numbingly boring genre of doom metal and making the rest of the rock tedium tap out.
This is an album that begs to be heard all at once. There are particularly memorable jams, like “Slave The Hive” with it’s nod to old school hardcore, and “The Dark Side Of The Compass”, a concept rager that shows off just how strong High On Fire’s songwriting skills really are. I also dug “The Cave”. That’s some trippy shit, plus it’s balls heavy. Kind of like Pike was making a mutant genetic freak out of Fire and his time in Sleep. Still, even with those jams, I would push you to just put Luminiferous on and let it play. Don’t get me wrong, the songs don’t blend together, rather the overall musical ideas come together to form a better Viking-warrior-ninja-killer when listened to all at once.
Producer Kurt Ballou is back. For my money he brings out the best in the band. Thus far there isn’t a High On Fire I don’t like, but I can’t stand up and cheer the production on all of them. Heavy doesn’t mean you need to sound like you’re playing from the bottom of a swamp. Ballou keeps things crispy, lets the big heaviness flow like a female giant on her period but never puts the band into the swamp. Des Kensel continues to prove he’s from some other planet when he plays drums. It’s kind of sickening how he good he is, and how inventive he keeps the drums when it would be easier to play straight. Jeff Matz holds the whole thing together with his bass sound. It rattles, it rolls, but it never loses control of the song. This lets Pike go nuts, which is always a pleasure.