High on Fire, Death is this Communion (2007)
This is my favorite High on Fire record. I know plenty other people who’ll choose other albums over 2007’s Death is this Communion, be it the band’s more stonerly 2000 debut, The Art of Self-Defense, or something more recent like 2010’s Snakes for the Divine, but for me, it’s gotta be Death is this Communion.
I remember very clearly the first time I really sat with a High on Fire album. It was 2002’s sophomore outing, Surrounded by Thieves. I was playing the album, which was new at that point, and a friend of mine came in the room and said, “What the fuck is this? It sounds so dirty.” We laughed, and yeah, it did. That record continues to hold a special place in my heart, but I think if you look at the progression of High on Fire‘s sound especially as it is right now, you see that Death is this Communion marks the turning point between their earlier work and the two albums they’ve done since.
Their 2005 third album, Blessed Black Wings, was notable for bringing in bassist Joe Preston (Thrones, ex-the Melvins) alongside the founding duo of guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike and drummer Des Kensel, but by the time they got around to the follow-up, it was Zeke‘s Jeff Matz in that role, and he’s stayed there since. So in a very real way, Death is this Communion is the marker for when High on Fire solidified itself. Also, if you take a look at where they were two records before (the marauding stoner thrash of Surrounded by Thieves) and where they went two records hence (the latest offering, 2012’s ultra-metal De Vermis Mysteriis), it becomes easy to read Death is this Communion as not just a step-stone in their catalog, but the essential position from which the two sides met and diverged. Whatever glories they’ve gone onto or had done before, they were never quite the same again.
And that’s not even to mention the songs on Death is this Communion — the title-track’s masterful sprawl, the initial pummel of “Fury Whip,” the unmitigated attack of “Rumors of War” that crashes right into the riff-groove of “DII.” It’s not a short album at a little less than 57 minutes, but even into its farthest reaches with “Ethereal” — still one of Pike‘s boldest vocal experiments — and churning closer “Return to NOD,” it never fails to both grasp and brutalize its attendees. They’d come from more filth-caked sonic places and they’d progress to even cleaner ones, but Death is this Communion inadvertently came to stand for the moment in time when High on Fire left behind the heavy forms of their beginnings and started a different quest altogether.
I had a job interview this afternoon. Corporate gig. People seemed nice. It was casual Friday, so I may have been one of few in the building not wearing jeans — the irony of which wasn’t lost on me. Before I left to go to their office, the little dog Dio came upstairs bleeding from the side of her head. An old scab she had opened up because she’s a dog and doesn’t know better. So I had to clean that before I left, put on some Neosporin, and that may have had an effect on my overall mental state, but I left there feeling positive. They asked about this site and I made it clear it was an “on my own time” thing. Guess I’d be putting in some early mornings or late nights. Either way. Gotta get the job first, then I’ll figure out the rest.
We’ve also put in a purchase and sale agreement to buy a condo, The Patient Mrs. and I (I suppose the dog too, though her name isn’t on the account). I’ve learned never to believe these things are going to happen until they already have, but I guess the point is adventure abounds. I’ve done my best these last few days to hold onto the good vibes I brought back with me from Roadburn. In a couple minutes I’ll go downstairs and load up a pizza from Whole Foods with pesto and roasted garlic, then watch baseball. A quiet night. Should be right on.
Next week — Monday brings a stream of two songs from the new The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic EP, and I’ll also have audio from Vestal Claret and Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus later in the week. I’m gonna try to squeeze a review of the new Floor in there as well, and another roundup of discs if I can. We’ll see how it goes, but I have a few staring me down from the pile that need to get written up. Fingers crossed I get there.
Hope you’re enjoying the High on Fire and hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.California, Death is this Communion, High on Fire, High on Fire Death is this Communion, Oakland, Relapse Records