High on Fire CD review [Relapse]

Music Reviews
High on Fire CD review [Relapse]
Feb 1, 2005, 01:36

HIGH ON FIRE Blessed Black Wings CD

I first came into contact with High on Fire when they were touring to support their first CD, The Art of Self-Defense. Watching Matt Pike churn out monstrously heavy riffs at a pace that showed that he was in no hurry, that he would take his own sweet time grinding the audience into dust. That was a revelation really and I've been hooked on the band since. I bought The Art of Self-Defense at that show and it has been my personal metal onion since then, bearing with repeated listens ever more layers of enjoyment. Over the last few years, I've seen them live about a half-dozen times, and while they are still a killer live band, a trend towards a more mainstream, sped-up sound has produced diminishing returns. So when I heard that Joe Preston, long-time practitioner of the low and the slow, had joined the band I held out a hope that the band would shift back to its earlier sound. I was even more pleased when I heard that Steve Albini would be producing, as he seemed like the perfect fit for a band whose records have never lived up to their live shows. So it was with some excitement that I put this CD in the player. The verdict? Not exactly what I had hoped for, but their best album to date at points, though, on a whole it doesn't eclipse The Art of Self-Defense because it's so very uneven. You have to give credit to Albini; it's certainly their best-sounding release. The first half of the album shows a band in full control of their talents. Matt Pike has developed into a maestro of the heavy, and the best songs are that much more brutal for being the effortless work of a master. Blessed Black Wings is certainly not a return to the band's original sound, it's pretty speedy, but there's more of a fast-slow, loud-soft dynamic than on anything they've done before. However, the second half of the album are mostly duds, giving the impression that they just ran out of ideas and threw in some filler. The final track is a shocker, and somewhat redeems the fall-off. It's an instrumental track, light and airy but still heavy all the same, showing that High on Fire has more tricks up its sleeve than anyone would have expected but still, here and on the whole, it falls well short of the mark. [Relapse]

-Brett Horn

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