Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Running through maple syrup while being punched in the face

Following the infamous (and kinda hilarious) demise of doom metal, slower-than-dirt icon Sleep, guitarist Matt Pike formed the noticeably faster-than-dirt band High on Fire. High on Fire recently released their fourth full-length, Death is this Communion (following the Art of Self-Defense, Surrounded by Thieves, and Blessed Black Wings). How this band managed to stomp around under my radar for so long is beyond me. To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed, but regardless I’ve found them. Or they found me, if you want to get a little creepy about it.

Death is this Communion, on the whole, is thick, heavy, dense, and down tuned to within an inch of its life. This bottom-heavy, wall of sound comes across at times a bit like trying to run wind sprints in a pool of molasses. The songs are written in an almost Motorheadish blues-metal style, with, at times, a more prog structure thrown in to keep things interesting. It can definitely leave you feeling, at first listen though, as if all their songs sound the same, separated by the occasional Middle Eastern influenced guitar work or drum solo. You hear it once, walk away thinking it all sounded like the same thundering fist in the gut, but in a little while, it begins.

Could be hours. Could be days. Hell, could be years. There are probably Typhoid Mary, asymptomatic High on Fire fanatics just waiting out there. Then it happens. You can’t get it out of your head. You find yourself replaying songs over and over again in your mind. You don’t know which songs they are. You don’t remember the words. You’re not even sure if it’s one song or some kind of muddled up medley your mind has glued together. But it plays and plays until you listen to the album again. Then it replays until you listen to it a third time. Next thing you know, you have 75% of the album memorized, all just so you can make sense of all that noise in your head.

The cause of the songs surprising catchiness can mostly be attributed Matt Pike’s vocals. His almost inhuman voice is all at once raspy, guttural, and melodic as he screams in throat shredding fashion surprisingly well-written lyrics. His barking howl doesn’t so much rise over the thick murkiness of the music, as it pushes itself through the din. The guitar, bass, drums, and vocals all lurk and sway in dangerous, thunderous unison. Guitars and bass become inseparable, bass and drums merge, and the vocals lead them all through the apocalyptic stomp. As if fifty hands were to all mold themselves into one giant sized fist, repeatedly punching you in the face, the music is melting pot of blues stomp low-end noise.

Check out their new video for the first single, “Rumors of War”, definitely one of my favorite songs on the album, along with “Waste of Tiamut” and “Turk”. Though, I have yet to find a single cut that I couldn’t listen to over and over again. Highly, highly recommended for people looking for some new metal, or just for people who don't have shitty taste in music.

No comments: