December 5, 2010 by Dan Swinhoe
Millions of years ago, the rules of evolution were simple: the biggest, angriest dinosaur wins.And with Snakes For The Divine, High On Fire have evolved into Godzilla.
With their 5th album in ten years frontman Matt Pike has been leading his crew ever higher in the metal world. While the legacy of his previous band Sleep will always be engraved in the minds of many a stoner, Pike has moved on.
From the first few notes of the album title track, it’s obvious the lazy, stoner jam riffs have become sharper, faster, and penetrate straight into your brain instead of floating around you and pounding your brain. The core is still the same: The power trio, the huge, stomping riffs, the motörhead vocals and mentality. but the intensity at which it’s delivered just keeps increasing.
2007’s Death Is This Communion started the trend by beefing up the sound and and power, but it’s been stepped up here in every area. Des Kensel storms away at the drums, and even during the slow sections gives the feeling that the end of the world is coming, and the guitar work has more light and shade than ever, without losing it’s pontency at any point.
Pike’s vocals have become more and more an important part of the equation. Where once he was mumbling low down in the mix, now he barks and roars like Lemmy at his most angry. And even when he stays silent onThe Path the anticipation continues to mount until it feels like the CD player or your computer will explode.
Clocking in at 40 minutes, even including the European bonus track, this is their shortest L.P to date, and benefits all the more from it. All the fat has been trimmed from the edges and what’s left is sleeker and all the more effective for it without losing anything. Froshammer, Fire, Flood & Plague and the superbly namedBastard Samurai storm by at six minutes each yet after it’s all done you still crave more.
Critics may say it’s simple and that the likes of Mastodon and Baroness may have taken the post metal blueprint to new progressive highs, but High On Fire have gone the other and simplified it to it’s purest metallic form. Every song is fully formed and satisfying in a way even Mastodon don’t always manage. The bonus track “Mystery Of Helm” is a perfect example of simple, yet devastating.
With Snakes For The Divine HOF are guaranteed a new army of fans and will, with any luck, get the applause they deserve.
And when they have song names like Bastard Samurai, who is going to argue?