High on Fire CD reviewed by Kurt Midness

Music Reviews
High on Fire CD reviewed by Kurt Midness
Oct 12, 2007, 04:07

High On Fire - Death Is This Communion

HIGH ON FIRE Death is this Communion CD

High on Fire are firmly establishing them selves as a mainstay of American Heavy Metal. Fans that were instantly won over by 2000's The Art of Self Defense know what to expect and the band consistently delivers…. thunderous blasts of sludge, muscular tribal drumming and ferocious guitar dexterity. If you don't know by now you should know… what High on Fire is: one of the best practitioners of Heavy Metal today. Death is this Communion gives listeners more of the same and delivers more than expected and it's awesome.

My hat is tipped to Jack Endino for his efforts producing this album. Where 2005's Blessed Black Wings showed the benefits of clarity, the production is hindered slightly by Steve Albini's clinical style which ultimately leaves the tech's fingerprints all over a crystal album. With Death is this Communion the production has the crispness of Blessed Black Wings, only in such a way as to emphasize the musicality of the songs. Endino clearly digs the music and no doubt pushed the band… killer new developments are the unified collaborative reward. Viewed from a distance Death is this Communion has a clever overall ambiance as well. I actually believe my blood pressure lowers by listening to it at a loud volume. That's not to say that this album is any less ferocious. New bass player and erstwhile Seattleite Jeff Matz proves to be a perfect fit on bass. His past efforts in Zeke might pan out to be the type of resumé material that should keep the job filled in the band for some time to come. Des Kensel is a beast of a drummer and puts in a remarkable performance on the drums, one which is notably different from previous efforts by employing a lot more double bass patterns throughout. It makes me wonder why we weren't treated to more of this earlier. Matt Pike shows exemplary growth in both guitar and vocals. While he's not George Benson, check out the title track and “Turk” for some honest to God vocal melodies… written for the choruses no less! Pike also gives listeners a broader palette to sample guitar-wise as is shown on the Raga-guitar drone of “Waste of Tiamat” that leads into the ol' sludge thumpery only to be trumped by a power metal guitar solo. The instrumental “DII” has engaging Hammett / Hetfield melodies and shows the results of Matt's introduction to Jack's keyboard. Come to think of it… Death is this Communion has the best guitar solos of any High on Fire release. “Rumors of War” would be a single if a band like this had singles and will get misguided comparisons to Motorhead—only Motorhead sounds like Motorhead—the comparison, however, brings to light what makes High on Fire special. They don't really do anything new on an elemental level, but what they do is uniquely theirs and that influence can be felt in the success of newer bands like The Sword.

Undoubtedly there is gonna be folks that wanna hack on this album, you know, “cuz I just think they were a lot better back when.” Yeah… back when they didn't have any recording budget to speak of and played to you and your buddies that time you got that purple weed, right? To quote Mr. Pike in a recent interview, “I mean, if you don't get this, then I don't know what to tell you—you're obviously a fucking idiot.” I couldn't have said it any better myself. [Relapse]

-Kurt Midness

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