High on Fire - _Death Is This Communion_
(Relapse Records, 2007)
by: Jackie Smit (
You're going to read it in a hundred reviews: how _Blessed Black Wings_ was the album that High on Fire absolutely had to produce, how it finally made good on the lingering promises of its two predecessors, and how High on Fire have since gone from being underachievers to simply being under-rated. It's tiresome just to write it. Of course it's all true, but the reality goes much deeper. This isn't just some up and coming band struggling to make a nut. This is Matt Pike of Sleep; a man who raised the bar for riff-mongers for years to come, and from whom we don't hope for, but expect something earth-shattering and grandiose every time he enters the studio. He certainly achieved it with _Blessed Black Wings_, a record that pulsated with such intense verve that it demanded attention from start to end without any respite. Yet listening through the opening canon of "Fury Whip" and "Waste of Tiamat" that introduces its successor, it turns out that High on Fire were really only revving their creative cylinders._Death Is This Communion_ isn't simply a follow-up to a great album, it's a revelation; a magnetic exercise that reiterates a similarly intoxicating message with every listen. High on Fire aren't here to reinvent the wheel. In fact, on the face of it, their approach bears a closer kinship to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath than it does to anything released in the 21st century. Back-to-basics though this method may be, Pike and his cohorts breathe the sort of sentience into it that is perpetual. Truth be told, it's the same undying ardour that makes one return to a _Master of Puppets_ or a _Rust in Peace_ time and time again. There's no mistaking Pike's love of the classics, either. Between his world-wise Lemmy-on-steroids croon and the raw, organic crunch of his Gibson Les Paul, he tips his hat to Iommi, Page and even Townshend. But his is merely a graciously respectful nod: the riffs that make up every second of _Death Is This Communion_ are decidedly and uniquely of his own nascence.It doesn't stop there. While at heart the record is a master-class in the art of the riff, more so than anything else, Pike isn't afraid to experiment either. The Eastern influence that permeates "Khanrads Wall" is sublime, as is the prog-influenced desert rock of "Cycolpian Scape". When they just want to rock the fuck out, "Rumours of War" demonstrates with authority that High on Fire aren't slouches in this department either. By the time we've reached "Return to Nod", it becomes obvious that the best has been saved for last.Truly one of the most complete and stunning records you will hear in 2007.
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