High On Fire Luminiferous

2015 eOne Music

Boots on the ground...

High On Fire - Luminiferous


Seven albums deep into their career and High On Fire have found themselves in uncharted waters. No, not musically, but we’ll get to that. The newfound sobriety of vocalist/guitarist Matt Pike—a man carved by decades of hard living that indelibly shaped the group’s sound—is what gave the legions of heshers/hessians who worship at his altar a cause for concern.

Rest assured that “Luminiferous” offers no mercy during the course of its pummeling campaign. Aided by the rich production talents of Converge‘s Kurt Ballou, the group once again fearlessly maraud through sludge, blackened rock n’ roll and a stifling stoner haze that is part funeral pyre/part bongsmoke. Relaxing their grip on the reigns a bit on this go-around, there’s less gallop and more time alloted for menace and pillaging.

Bolstered by a thick, gripping rhythm section, Pike chisels away at the bands own aural monolith, alternating between refined moments of articulation and outright sledgehammer bashes. Having a clear head hasn’t steered him away from his obsession with aliens, conspiracies and the rest either. The lyrical content here is rife with enough paranoia and clandestine infiltration theories to keep an army of psychologists employed. Whether you subscribe to it all yourself though likely depends on your level of hallucinogenic intake.

Regardless, what is particularly striking about this album is its density. Its mass is present from songwriting through to production. There’s no detached riffing over the bass, nor do the drums and bass play tug of war: they’re all embedded side by side. That said, there are moments where drummer Des Kensel sounds like he’s using war hammers instead of sticks, and that’s a good thing.

Musically less thrashy, the songs here have no shortage of bulk. The key elements of Sabbath, Motörhead/Hawkwind, etc. all remain in place, but High On Fire do step out of their comfort zone. “The Cave“, a lingering number about Pike‘s ex, is about as close to a ballad as they’ve come. Other tracks like “Carcosa” and “The Sunless Years” serve as methodical floggings, while “The Black Plot” and the title track unleash unholy hell. All in all, “Luminiferous” is like setting a meth addicted biker gang loose in medieval times.

Volatile measures of brutality, speed and unrelenting groove are the foundation, and Pike has not softened a bit, bellowing and howling like a charging barbarian. It’s probably their most focused endeavor to date and without being a casualty to his own vices, Pike joins his criminally unsung troops in battle rather than leading the charge. The end result is a thundering war cry that seems destined for midcard spots on many of the 2015 top 10 lists.