I’ve been looking forward to this album since it was first announced a few months back – indeed despite my privilege of getting the promo it was one of those releases that <ahem> jumped into my shopping basket on [insert name of website I have no intention of promoting here] as soon as I realised that it was going to be another one of Century Media’s cracking vinyl editions, complete with CD copy of the album and poster of the typically awesome art-work. So, with that in mind, is it worth all the excitement?
From the moment the widdly intro guitar gives way to a monumental doom riff the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’, as if it could ever have been anything else. Just one listen to the overwhelming opening drum riff, coupled with the tar-thick guitar brutality of Matt Pike (the genius behind Sleep) and you’re dragged blissfully into a world where Lemmy spend his days smoking spliffs and listening to Black Sabbath and Pantera. It is one of the best album openers I’ve heard in a good while and it is gloriously immediate, sending the bedroom-head-banger in me into peaks of ecstasy – yeah, it’s that good. Happily, High on fire are no one-trick-pony and the second track (“frost hammer”) continues the good work with a chugging riff that loses none of its potency through speed. Meanwhile Des Kensel’s drums continue to impress with rolls and fills flying thick and fast, while the crash takes some serious punishment on the chorus, threatening to make your ears bleed if played at suitably high volumes. The comically titled ‘bastard samurai’ opens with the sort of twisted bass playing that hasn’t been heard since Cliff Burton tragically passed, sounding almost like an organ, before the guitars come crashing in with all the weight of a bus landing on your small toe and it’s an exercise on creepy dynamics, with understated drumming and clean(ish) vocals giving way to a chorus straight out of the Sabbath school of song-writing – it’s heavy as hell and more than gives the astonishing Heaven and Hell album a run for its money. ‘Ghost neck’, by contrast does its best to break yours by kicking in at the speed of light and getting faster from there while still sounding as syrupy as your gran’s finest flapjack. Tar thick and as black as a chain smoker’s lungs it’s a kick-ass tune that simply beats hell out of the metal-core nonsense that seems to be so beloved at the moment.
‘The path’ opens in a storm of fuzz and feedback – a monumental track that carries with it the whiff of herbal cigarettes and hefty 70s rock filtered through Kyuss’ own sound-system., but that’s merely a breath pause for breath before the phenomenal ‘Fire, flood and plague’ kicks off with all the subtlety of a birthday strip-tease. It’s a vicious, awesome, enraged track that sounds like it’s going to take off at any second and it sure as hell gets the blood pumping. ‘How dark we pray’ slips back into a more laid-back groove which it sustains over its eight minute run time, before final track ‘holy flames of the firsepitter’ shows High on Fire’s commitment to leaving no one un-bloodied by the end of this spectacular set of songs.
This is a colossal, vital, surging record of monumental proportions which casually redefines the boundaries of stoner music in much the way Kyuss and Monster Magnet did at varying points in their careers. There is simply no bad moment on this album. It’s bold, brash and pumped beyond measure. The musicianship is uniformly fantastic sand you can feel the passion of seeping out of the vinyl through every raging minute. This is essential listening, as vital as metal gets. Get it, and get it now. Simply awesome.