One band who undeniably create a weighty wall-of-sound, an earthy noise that explodes from fathoms below the surface, is High On Fire – they never were a band for the faint-hearted. Embedded into the driving whirlwind that is Des Kensel’s colossal drums we find Jeff Matz’s dirty distorted bass tone smashing into the wrecking ball riffs that burst from Matt Pike’s “nine strings of Hell”. Combined it creates kaleidoscopic swathes of fuzz and metal distortion. Yet, it’s not all about swamping brains and busting eardums. Thanks to the standard epic production and mixing from the legendary Kurt Ballou, the voluminous, viscous gloop of a groove is also layered deep enough to retain the band’s true rock n’ roll leanings.
For four straight tracks they strap you beneath the wings of an aircraft, dangling in the heat from the jet engine, billowing in the drag of 60,000 tonnes of thrust. Opener “The Black Plot” powers up their instantly recognisable swathe of rotational vortexes and gutsy, crushing machinations whilst the howling “Carcosa” and “The Sunless Years” both come infused with a warming buzz, oodles of stoner doom grunt, wild resounding solos and are splattered with the thick, gargled vocal that rattles from the scarred lining of Pike’s newly-sober throat. A veritable bag of nails, it laughs in the face of the earth-shaking instrumentation attempting to flatten it.
This time round, happily for those needing a breather after the spiky, speed-demons that are “Slave The Hive” and the title-track, California’s finest have littered the album with little air holes out of which pours energising melodics and sleek, dark portents that wrap themselves round simmering, beautifully-paced growers. Riding upon “The Falconist” you absolutely get the sense of mounting the back of this rising bird of prey, wedged between its beating wings. It douses itself in hints of classic rock and NWOBHM with its simplistic progressions and organic patterns. From the crush of Torche and Crowbar into the loving arms of Iron Maiden yet never leaving the core of their sound far behind. It would be remiss of me here then to not also mention the Monster Magnet-esque psychedelics and echoing, vocal drift that forms “The Cave”. It is the brooding hinge on which this whole album swings. Without it, the album would be bereft of its most interesting flavour.
Having torn into Luminiferous, their seventh long-player, with the same verve and power that they riddled their debut with, it seems almost unfathomable that the band even know how to create a weak or maniacally experimental album. The one thing that they rarely pull from their repertoire, however, and something that is missing here too, is the invention of a brash, repeating lyrical hook, an unforgettable riff or irresistible earworm. Instead, they choose to build their music close to the ground; they were born to do so. It defines them. The need to lay a rock-solid foundation oozes from their pores. As a consequence, the High On Fire label has become a sign of assured quality. Fans will know what to expect, newbies will either move on or absolutely devour its intensity and crave more. Just remember, before you press play… buckle up.
(7.5/10 John Skibeat)