HIGH ON FIRE was formed after the break-up of SLEEP, the former band of guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike. For those that don’t know SLEEP used to be a Stoner Metal band and from what I’ve read about them, are pretty influential within that genre. HIGH ON FIRE doesn’t seem like an exact continuation SLEEP, yet keeps the elements that made that band legendary.
This is Stoner Metal at its very finest. The music is heavily inspired by both the darkness and the bluesiness of BLACK SABBATH and the faster, more energetic SLAYER and has found the perfect spot for themselves between those two bands, somewhere closer to BLACK SABBATH than SLAYER. The music is very heavy, yet not overbearing and extremely catchy and will sink straight into your skin. The music is mid-paced most of the time, yet there are faster moments (“Devilution”) that are a nice contrast. The production is dirty and gives the album character. Most of the time, I’d complain about it, but to be honest, the sludgy riffs and generally hypnotic mood of the album would have been lost with a clean production.
The vocals are distorted, reminiscent of MASTODON, although with a bit more screaming. It fits the music and the mood in most cases. However, they do get tedious in a couple of songs; because it seems that the vocalist is straining his vocal chords singing (“To Cross The Bridge” suffers of this). They aren’t perfect, yet they work with the music.
This release surprised the hell out of me. I was supposed to see this band live with MASTODON in the summer of 2002, yet border problems would forbid that. A couple of people claimed that what happened was a good thing. After listening to this album, I will have to disagree with them and call HIGH ON FIRE an amazing band. (Online March 3, 2005)