Guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike formed High on Fire in 1998. It was about six months after his former outfit — a little group called Sleep — broke up, and together with drummer Des Kensel and bassist George Rice, Pike began to move in a less directly Sabbath-minded direction. The band’s first release came out in the form of a 1999 self-titled EP on 12th Records.
Not only was High on Fire‘s High on Fire the first output from the band, it was also the first 12th Records release. The label, which was and remains the imprint arm of the Electric Amp company, put out High on Fire prior to the band’s signing with Man’s Ruin for their first full-length, 2000′s The Art of Self-Defense.
Of course, High on Fire would go on over the course of subsequent releases on Relapse – 2002′s Surrounded by Thieves, 2005′s Blessed Black Wings and 2007′s Death is this Communion — to come to the forefront of modern metal consciousness, eventually signing with E1 for the release of last year’s Snakes for the Divine, but in 1999, they were still pretty much just Matt Pike‘s new band post-Sleep.
The High on Fire EP isn’t nearly as thrash-laden as the trio’s sound would eventually become, but those elements are there, particularly in Kensel‘s pulsating kick and the way he and Pike interact. George Rice, who would stick around until being replaced by Joe Preston (the Melvins, Thrones) for Blessed Black Wings, offered a stonerly thickness under the guitar solo in “10,000 Years,” and Pike‘s vocals actually find him trying some cleaner singing, which is something he wouldn’t attempt again for some time, instead relying on the rasp that came to typify the band’s first several LPs.
If you can find it, the EP is definitely worth a listen for fans of the band who may have joined up later. There are copies of the CD out there, and I’m told of this new phenomenon called “down-loading” (I may have that wrong) in which computers can be used like record players, but whatever futuristic means you use to acquire it — I was fortunate enough to find it at a semi-reasonable price in physical form — consider it recommended.
All three of these songs — “Blood From Zion,” “10,000 Years” and “Master of Fists” — showed up again on The Art of Self-Defense, but there’s nothing quite like hearing how it was the first time for the first time. If I was Frank Kozik (and I’m not, much to my ongoing disappointment), I’d have signed them too.
Tags: 12th Records, California, High on Fire, Oakland