High on Fire
Snakes for the Devine
buy album here
Whatever it is, Matt Pike has got it, has had it, and won't lose it anytime soon. This can refer to one of the biggest, nastiest, meatiest, dirtiest guitar sounds in the biz, some of the best songwriting and album construction in both the metal and stoner rock genres, and the ability to front some of the most influential heavy bands over the past two decades. Oh, how we all miss Sleep and thank whomever we align with every night before bed for Holy Mountain and Dopesmoker. As the sad end came to this mammoth of a band, we all wondered what would become of this monster guitarist and vocalist that we had all come to adore. Shortly after, from the dense fog, High on Fire came knocking, punched us in the gut, and rattled our fillings as we were braced ourselves for round two with Matt Pike.
Snakes for the Devine is an extremely aggressive album, throwing away the notion that High on Fire is a stoner metal act in any way. The guitar riffs are fast and brutal, the bass lines are meaty and melodic, and the drums gallop throughout, utilizing double kick drum rudiments as much as humanly possible. This record is angry and epic, almost as if Pike and company are throwing on the armor, taking up the axes, and sprinting into battle with a thirst for blood, delivering violent death to all who fall prey. As he gets older, Matt's voice reminds me of a perfect mix between Lemmy and Mille Petrozza from Kreator.
Produced by Gred Fidelman, the man responsible for recording and mixing Metallica's Death Magnetic and Slayer's World Painted Blood, this album as a whole is much more accessible for most listeners with cleaner guitar tones and vocals that are mixed out in front of the rumble. Thus, Snakes for the Devine could quite possibly serve as High on Fire's bridge into the metal mainstream, increasing their fans and listening population beyond those who are "in the know" and who have been loyal to Matt Pike from the get-go. Not that they are selling out with this one, no sir. However, for those who are used to to what High On Fire has delivered in the past, it might a listen or two to get used to things with the way that they are now. Opening up with the titled track and quite possibly one of the most intense moments for their career, High on Fire leaves stragglers in the dust with a song that is fast, furious, and in your face. The opening guitar line could just as easily come out of a prog metal notehead and threw me for a loop during my first listen. "Frost Hammer" follows and keeps things going with a tempo that parallels those of Motorhead and Venom. With "Ghost Neck", things get a bit faster and throw a bit more thrash metal into the mix, adding yet another dimension to the new sound. For me, the gem contained within Snakes for the Devine is "Bastard Samurai", a slower track which is highly similar to the previous more stoner, doomy material that both early High on Fire and Sleep exhibited. The tempo is almost twice as slow as everything else on the record, giving a breath of fresh air among the speedier numbers, and is just as heavy, if not heavier than the rest of the album.
Hats off to Matt Pike and High on Fire for not giving up on what they love to do and delivering yet another record that will assuredly gain them a more diverse, widespread crowd within the metal community. -Andrew Bryant