Friday Full-Length: High on Fire, Death is this Communion

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

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.

The Obelisk Forum

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Friday Full-Length: Sleep, Sleep’s Holy Mountain

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Sleep, Sleep’s Holy Mountain (1993)

An obvious pick, maybe, but I’m thinking of it more as correcting the oversight of never having closed a week with it before than taking the easy way out, so if that’s how you want to roll with it as well, I’m cool with that. Or if you don’t give a crap and are happy to have an excuse to groove on Sleep’s Holy Mountain on this late Friday evening/early Saturday morning, that works too. Either way you want to slice it, Sleep‘s second album, released in the US in March 1993 — it’s almost legally old enough to drink, and who wouldn’t buy this record a beer on its birthday? — is among the most influential slabs of Sabbath-worship ever crafted. Not one week goes by that I don’t get hit up by some band playing essentially these riffs in a different order. Sometimes in the same order. It has made gods of Sleep, and helped solidify the second generation of heavy rock and roll in the ’90s, giving a true and loyal update on the potency of the band’s ’70s forebears.

Most importantly, it has earned every bit of the legend around it. To listen to “Evil Gypsy/Solomon’s Theme,” the three-piece of bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros, guitarist Matt Pike and drummer Chris Hakius sound as blitzed out of their minds as they probably were, and as much of Sleep‘s legacy is tied to the legend of Dopesmoker and the band taking their major label advance and spending it on weed and amps and whatever, Sleep’s Holy Mountain is the right album to have come from its time and place, and more than 20 years on, I think we’re still in the process of understanding its impact.

Also it fucking rules. Please enjoy.

I’ve had “day” enough for three days, so I’m going to keep this brief, but please let me say how humbled I was and how heartwarming the response to the fifth anniversary post was. As it happened, I wrote that in a hospital waiting room while a member of my family was having surgery (all seems to be well), and it was a show of support that was even more appreciated in that context. Deeply, deeply appreciated. Again, more than I can say.

We came down to Jersey last night ahead of that procedure — that’s also why there weren’t so many posts today; that premiere for The Socks I wrote late last night to publish this morning — and tomorrow we’ll head back north to Massachusetts after breakfast. I’ve got a lot of email to answer and a lot of stuff to listen to, but I’m going to try to do another roundup this coming week like the one I did this past Monday — though I’m going to do it on Tuesday, because Monday is enough of a pain in the ass without it — and I know I’ll have a review of the Valley of the Sun record, but I’m honestly sure what else at the moment because I’m just not home. Maybe The Warlocks.

Oh, and I’ll have the Alcest interview, finally. Little late on that one, but still. Time to get it posted, so that’ll be up.

I said I was going to keep it short, so I am, since even though I’m not all the way through Sleep’s Holy Mountain yet my eyes are starting to close, but before I go, please, thank you again so much for all the support and encouragement and kind words and thoughts. Five years of this has been fantastic, and I know there’s a lot of really awesome stuff coming in the next few months, with the Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast tour — fuck I can. not. wait. to go on tour with those dudes — in February and more excellence on tap for the spring. Stay tuned, is what I’m saying.

Alright. Have a great and safe weekend, and please hit up the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

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High on Fire Release New Video for “Slave the Hive”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

High on Fire first released the track “Slave the Hive” as a limited, Scion A/V-sponsored 7″ and download to coincide with their fall tour. Today the band gives the song some visual accompaniment. It’s a classic metal video for sure, and the track is a ripper, so don’t miss out. High on Fire‘s tour with Kvelertak and Windhand is currently winding down on the West Coast, and I don’t know about you, but I’m anxiously awaiting any possible news of a follow-up to 2012′s raging De Vermis Mysteriis being in the works. Cross your fingers, and keep them that way for a year. Yeah, I know they’ll start to cramp up. It’s for a good cause.

Needless to say, it’s going to be a while before humanity recovers from this one:

High on Fire, “Slave the Hive” official video

HIGH ON FIRE Unleashes New Music Video “Slave the Hive”

California Metal Champions in the Midst of Massive North American Headlining Tour

Heavy metal powerhouse HIGH ON FIRE releases a music video for its brand new single “Slave the Hive” today. The song, available as limited edition 7-inch at every stop of the group’s current Scion A/V-sponsored headlining tour, marks the first new music from the California metal champions since the spring 2012 release of De Vermis Mysteriis.

HIGH ON FIRE’s North American headlining tour will run through December 12. Norwegian thrash-metal sextet Kvelertak opens all dates.

Scion AV presents: HIGH ON FIRE:
Kvelertak support on all dates; Windhand – Nov. 29 to Dec. 12.
December 4 Edmonton, AB Starlite Room
December 5 Calgary, AB Republik
December 7 Vancouver, BC Venue Vancouver
December 8 Seattle, WA El Corazon
December 9 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theater
December 11 San Francisco, CA Regency Center Grand Ballroom
December 12 Los Angeles, CA El Rey Theatre

https://www.facebook.com/highonfire
http://www.highonfire.net/

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High on Fire Add More Dates to Fall Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 9th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Good news continues to roll out from the High on Fire camp in the form of additional tour dates with Kvelertak, Doomriders, Windhand and Pack of Wolves. Each of the latter three are opening in rotation as per the details below, while Kvelertak will play all the shows, but as you can see, shows were added with all of them. Funny how things work out.

Fresh off the PR wire:

The previously announced Scion A/V presented High On Fire tour, which sees the California power trio joined by Norwegian hard rock crew Kvelertak, has added an additional twelve dates to the incendiary extravaganza with newly announced stops in Boston, Toronto, Chicago and San Francisco amongst others.

As part of the Scion A/V-sponsored tour, High on Fire will release a new single titled “Slave The Hive” on Oct. 16, marking the first new music from the Oakland-based metal champions since the Spring 2012 release of De Vermis Mysteriis. A limited edition 7-inch will be available at all tour dates with a video for the song to be released simultaneously.

Norwegian thrash-metal sextet Kvelertak, who have had one of 2013’s buzziest hard rock releases with the Kurt Ballou (Converge) produced album Meir, will open all dates. Doomriders (Nov. 10 to 23), Pack of Wolves (Nov. 25 – 27) and Windhand (Nov. 29 to Dec. 12) will be featured as the evening opener on different legs of the tour.

A Twitter (Twitter.com/ScionAV) sweepstakes will be ongoing throughout the tour, with two pairs being given away per show.

Scion A/V Presents High On Fire
New dates are italicized

November 10 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade
November 11 Asheville, NC Orange Peel
November 12 Washington, DC Rock & Roll Hotel
November 13 Philadelphia, PA Underground Arts
November 15 New York, NY Webster Hall
November 16 Boston, MA The Middle East
November 17 Montreal, QC Corona Theatre
November 18 Toronto, ON Opera House
November 19 Detroit, MI Crofoot Ballroom
November 20 Columbus, OH A&R Music Bar
November 22 Chicago, IL Metro
November 23 Sauget, IL Pop’s
November 25 Houston, TX House of Blues
November 26 Dallas, TX Tree’s
November 27 Austin, TX Mohawk Outside
November 29 Lawrence, KS Granada Theatre
November 30 Minneapolis, MN First Avenue
December 2 Winnipeg, MB West End Cultural Centre
December 4 Edmonton, MB Starlite Room
December 5 Calgary, AB Republik
December 7 Vancouver, BC Venue Vancouver
December 8 Seattle, WA El Corazon
December 9 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theatre
December 11 San Francisco, CA Regency Center Grand Ballroom
December 12 Los Angeles, CA El Rey Theatre

Kvelertak support on all dates; Evening openers rotate: Doomriders – Nov. 10 to 23, Pack of Wolves – Nov. 27 and Windhand – Nov. 29 to Dec. 12.

Tickets for the newly announced dates are on-sale on Sept. 13 with Chicago on-sale on Sept. 14.  Tickets for the previously released dates are currently on-sale.

High On Fire recently released the first official live recordings of their career with the two volume set Spitting Fire Live, which has been hailed as “high-volume intensity” by the Austin Chronicle, “hot as the infernos” by Pitchfork and a “documentation of the band’s undiminished ferocity onstage” by the SF Weekly.  Recorded over a two evening NYC headlining stint at both NYC’s Bowery Ballroom and Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg last winter, Spitting Fire Liveshowcases High On Fire at its incendiary best, containing songs from each of the band’s critically acclaimed studio albums including last year’s celebrated De Vermis Mysteriis.

High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis (2012)

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Here’s Some Sleep Rehearsal Footage from 2009

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 4th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I don’t need an excuse to post this Sleep rehearsal footage from 2009, so I’m not going to give one. It’s just awesome, and of all the poorly lit rehearsal room videos I’ve seen, this one for “Evil Gypsy/Solomon’s Theme” from the singularly righteous Sleep’s Holy Mountain makes a case for the top spot. Presumably at this point they were preparing for their reunion appearances at All Tomorrow’s Parties, though I don’t know that for a fact. Aside from being generally killer, the clip earns extra notoriety for featuring the original trio lineup — Al Cisneros on bass/vocals, Matt Pike on guitar and Chris Hakius on drums. Of course as time went on and Sleep continued to play shows, Hakius would be replaced by Jason Roeder of Neurosis, who’s more than ably filled that role since.

It would be more than a year’s time before Sleep came east at all, so it’s cool to see an intimate glimpse at the band as they were just getting going again. You can see Hakius rubbing his right knee in the break between the song’s two parts. I guess maybe he was still getting used to playing the songs after a long absence of doing so. He retired from Sleep (and Om) after All Tomorrow’s Parties, so it’s somewhat rare to see him at all at this point in comparison to all the videos of Sleepplaying live since. Again, not that I need an excuse to post, but there’s one if you want it.

Enjoy:

Sleep, “Evil Gypsy/Solomon’s Theme” (2009 Rehearsal)

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High on Fire Join Lineup for Metal Alliance Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Sometimes it feels like every other post around here is about Matt Pike, but what can I say? The dude makes news as much as he makes noise. Fresh off coming in second in The Obelisk’s Readers Poll for 2012, High on Fire have been announced as taking part in this year’s Metal Alliance (aka Metalliance) tour, set to run from March 23 to April 20.

And it’s not so much the fact that they’re on the tour that makes it news, so much as the company they’re keeping. I know High on Fire and Municipal Waste have done shows together in the past, but it puts the Oakland trio in a way thrashier context to have them alongside Anthrax doing all of Among the Living and Exodus on Metalliance. They’ve already long since won over lovers of the riff, so it should be interesting to see how they do with a more straightforwardly metal crowd.

Here’s the info and dates, hot off the PR wire:

High On Fire Join The Metal Alliance Tour

The Metal Alliance Tour is back and now has added the mighty HIGH ON FIRE to its already impressive Festival line up. The band has just completed their own very successful headlining tour with GOATWHORE and LO-PAN. Their latest release De Vermis Mysteriis by eOne Entertainment was garnered as one of the Best Metal Records of 2012 and winning the Revolver Magazine Best Video of 2012.

You can check out the mini-masterpiece of psychedelic Sci-Fi “Fertile Green” video at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fq1gb50iobU

The Metal Alliance Tour is scheduled to roll out in March and continue through April. It features the greatest bands within the genre including ANTHRAX performing their fan favorite 1987 classic Among The Living in its entirety along with San Francisco thrash legends EXODUS, HIGH ON FIRE, MUNICIPAL WASTE and HOLY GRAIL. This is a tour will go down as one of the greatest shows to hit the stage.

General Admission Tickets will be available on January 11th but fans can now order their VIP Tickets. There are only 50 VIP Tickets per market and will quickly sell out. Each VIP Ticket will include the following items:

General Admission Ticket
Meet & Greet 30 Minutes Before Doors
Limited Edition VIP Laminate
Limited Edition 11 x 17 Tour Poster
Metal Alliance Beer Koozie
Bottle of High River Sauce’s Hellacious Hot Sauce (The Official Hot Sauce of The Metal Alliance Tour)
Issue of Revolver Magazine

You can now purchase the VIP Tickets from our friends at Sound Rink: http://www.soundrink.com/collections/metal-alliance

Sharing the stage each night and crushing heads on the Metal Alliance Tour will be San Francisco thrash legends EXODUS, MUNICIPAL WASTE, HOLY GRAIL and a couple of additional bands will be announce at a later date.

3/23 House of Blues Las Vegas, NV
3/24 Marquee Theatre Tempe, AZ
3/25 House of Blues San Diego, CA
3/27 House of Blues West Hollywood, CA
3/28 Regency Ballroom San Francisco, CA
3/29 The Crystal Ballroom Portland, OR
3/30 Commodore Ballroom Vancouver, BC
3/31 Showbox SoDo Seattle, WA
4/2 Summit Music Hall Denver, CO
4/4 First Avenue Minneapolis, MN
4/5 House of Blues Chicago, IL
4/6 The Fillmore Detroit Detroit, MI
4/7 Bogarts Cincinnati, OH
4/9 House of Blues Dallas, TX
4/10 House of Blues Houston, TX
4/12 House of Blues Lake Buena Vista, FL
4/13 Tremont Music Hall Charlotte, NC
4/14 The Fillmore Silver Spring, MD
4/16 House of Blues Cleveland, OH
4/18 Theatre of the Living Arts Philadelphia, PA
4/20 Irving Plaza New York, NY

You miss this you miss it all.

For more information please visit the Metal Alliance Tour website: http://metalalliancetour.com

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So, I Think Sleep Might Need to Release a New Album in 2013

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Okay, let me rephrase right off the bat — Sleep don’t need to put out an album at all. Sleep don’t need to do anything. With Al Cisneros in Om, Matt Pike in High on Fire and Jason Roeder in Neurosis, it’s not like the dudes in Sleep are lagging either on output or asskickery. However,  “I think Sleep should put out a new record in an attempt to capture a special moment in the creative lives of its three members” hardly makes for a catchy headline. So here we are.

I’ve got a couple different levels of argument in favor of a new Sleep album, which would be their first since the epic Dopesmoker finally saw the light of day officially in 2003. At the most basic level is the nerdy, “OMG more riffs”-type impulse — the side of me that wants to hear new Sleep just because it would be new stuff from the band who put out Sleep’s Holy Mountain 20 years ago. I’m not about to invalidate that response. Fanboyism is what it is.

More than that, however, I think when you take a look at the response to the periodic shows Sleep have played over the last two-plus years (I first saw them in Brooklyn, Sept. 2010), their continued interest in performing live, their continued influence in the sphere of stoner metal, heavy psych, etc., and — because yes, this matters — the fact that there’s more of an audience for Sleep now than there ever was before, a new studio album is a logical next step. Most of all, creatively.

Take a look at this year’s releases from Om, High on Fire and Neurosis. All three bands had a records out in 2012, and all three were incredibly different. Cisneros explored lush melodies and a wider psychedelic expanse than ever before on Advaitic Songs (review here), while Pike issued High on Fire‘s most aggressive offering to date in De Vermis Mysteriis (review here), and in Neurosis, Roeder provided creative rhythms to ground some of the pioneering Bay Area outfit’s most complex material on Honor Found in Decay (review here). Each was a triumph completely on its own terms.

And that’s why I say now is the time for new Sleep. I’m not thinking that you put Cisneros, Pike and Roeder in a jam space and out comes “From Beyond Pt. 2.” Especially since it would be their first outing with Roeder on drums, I’d hope that a new Sleep record — while obviously steeped in Iommic tradition — sounded like nothing they’ve ever done before. If I wanted to hear what Sleep sounded as they were in their original incarnation, I’d put on one of the old albums. I want to hear what Sleep can put together sound-wise today. I want to hear Sleep with Roeder‘s drum fills, or some of the warmth of tone that Cisneros has developed in Om, or with the kind of solo that Pike wouldn’t have dared attempt at the time but has been decapitating audiences with ever since.

They’ve got their blueprint to work from in terms of riffs, tones and overall approach, but with as distinct as the three personalities have proven to be over the course of this year — and especially with how well the trio works on stage at this point; their set at Roadburn 2012 was hands down one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen — it just seems like there’s an opportunity now to stand up to the challenge of bringing together something that captures the different sides of each member’s personality while also remains uniquely Sleep‘s own, adding to the breadth of their ever-expanding influence.

It seems like a ludicrous idea, right? Well, Black Sabbath have a new record in the works. Saint Vitus put out an album this year. Hell, even the dudes from Kyuss have something going at this point. So why not Sleep? I never thought I’d get to see the band live, and it’s been a couple times now. We live in a universe of infinite possibilities, and though it’s hardly the likeliest announcement to come down the PR wire, would you really have thought they’d get back together for shows in the first place? It’s been over two years now.

So yeah, they don’t need to release an album in 2013 — or ever, for that matter — but if they did, they’d be coming together at just the time when they each seemed to be most on their own path. Whatever that might result in, whether it’s another Dopesmoker or something completely different, it seems like a worthwhile endeavor no matter how you want to look at it.

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Neurosis Add More Live Dates for 2013

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 21st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Apparently I missed a few pieces of news while I was spending eight and a half hours putting together my Top 20 yesterday, so in an effort to get caught up, here are the latest additions to Neurosis‘ shows in support of Honor Found in Decay – which, as fate would have it, featured prominently in the aforementioned list. I look forward to nerding out at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, and if you were fortunate enough to catch them last time they were there, you should too.

The PR wire is wise in the ways of tour dates:

NEUROSIS Authenticates Additional 2013 Live Actions

Details On Vinyl Pressing Of Honor Found In Decay Released

NEUROSIS continues to confirm new live actions in support of the band’s tenth studio opus, Honor Found In Decay.

Following recent announcements on the outfit’s upcoming performances in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle, NEUROSIS have just proclaimed additional 2013 on-stage manifestations, with new shows in Brooklyn and Philadelphia planned for January, as well as Denver and Austin in February. Support acts for these new concerts are all being confirmed now, in addition to even more live performances.

The band has also been confirmed for 2013’s installment of the massive Hellfest festival in Clisson, France. The immense gathering runs from June 21st through 23rd, and will see NEUROSIS sharing the stage with Kiss, ZZ Top, Down, Bad Religion, At The Gates, Kreator and hundreds more.

A release date and further details on the anticipated vinyl edition of Honor Found In Decay have also been disclosed this week. This deluxe 2xLP pressing of the album will be unleashed February 5th in North America, February 8th in Germany/Benelux/Finland and February 11th in the UK/World, via Relapse Records/Neurot Recordings, and will be packaged in a gorgeous Stoughton tip-on gatefold jacket and accompanied by a stunning 16-page LP-sized booklet. The audio was cut directly from the original studio master tapes and pressed on 180-gram vinyl, which will be available in five different colors: 2000 on black, 1000 on translucent smoke grey, 500 on translucent yellow, 500 on translucent orange, and 100 on clear, not available to the public.

Preorders can be placed via Neurot and Relapse now!

NEUROSIS Honor Found In Decay Live Actions:
12/29/2012 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA w/ Rwake, USX, Primate
12/30/2012 The Metro – Chicago, IL w/ Bloodiest, The Atlas Moth
1/04/2013 Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA w/ Savage Republic, Ides of Gemini
1/05/2013 Showbox at the Market – Seattle, WA w/ Tragedy, Black Breath, Stoneburner
1/19/2013 Brooklyn Masonic Temple – Brooklyn, NY
1/20/2013 Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA
2/16/2013 Summit Music Hall – Denver, CO
2/17/2013 Emo’s East – Austin, TX
6/21/2013 Hellfest – Clisson, France

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2012 Comeback of the Year: High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis

Posted in Features on December 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I guess the first question here is, “Did High on Fire actually ever need to make a comeback?” Here’s how I see it: After signing with E1 in 2009 following a long tenure on Relapse Records, the Oakland, CA, trio released Snakes for the Divine (review here) in 2010. Song-wise, you could hardly call the album a dip in quality from what Matt Pike (guitar/vocals), Des Kensell (drums) and Jeff Matz (bass) brought to bear on 2007′s thunderous Death is this Communion, but the difference was in the production and presentation of the album. The songs were as thrashing as ever, but all of a sudden, they were also irrevocably, undeniably clean. And if there’s one thing High on Fire had never sounded before, it’s clean.

During the album cycle for Snakes for the Divine, I recall catching a High on Fire show in NYC and thinking that the band were done with the underground entirely, and that in time, strong>Snakes would be the turning point when they went from a visceral experience, influential even as they were still driving towards some yet-unknown creative apex, to a watered down and more accessible version of what they once were. Doubtless they could pull off such a transition and grow a wider audience for themselves, but for the fans who’d been with them since their earlier days when Pike, began to feel out this brash new musical direction after ending his time in Sabbathian legends Sleep, it wouldn’t ever be the same again.

That’s just not the way it turned out. At all.

With this year’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here), High on Fire didn’t so much return to form as they did break the mold, smashing it on a sharply executed bed of thickened thrash extremity. The songs managed to capture every potential appeal of Snakes for the Divine – whether it was the opening catchiness of “Serums of Laio,” the rhythmic intensity of “Madness of an Architect,” searing turns of “Spiritual Rites” or the epic storytelling of powerful closing duo “Romulus and Remus” and “Warhorn” — and coupled with the production of Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou at his Godcity Studios in Salem, Massachusetts, they brimmed with tonal largesse and a sense of danger that hinted at a method behind High on Fire’s madness that had never been there before. To put a point on it, De Vermis Mysteriis didn’t just happen by mistake.

Somewhere along the line, the band decided that their sixth album was indeed going to be a turn, not to a more commercial direction but instead away from it, and while the rough edges and post-stonerisms of early records The Art of Self-Defense (2000) and Surrounded by Thieves (2002) were gone, the progression came across naturally, not contrived. High on Fire were tighter, meaner than ever, and the songs the wrote, the presentation and the vague-but-characteristic narrative showed that. In the best case scenario of any long-running outfit’s latest album, everything they’d done before felt like it was leading up to the newest triumph.

All wasn’t well in the band, and dropping off the touring Mayhem festival this summer, Pike entered rehab. It was a move that significantly derailed their momentum, given the breadth of new audience they would’ve reached on the road alongside the likes of Slipknot and Slayer, but when High on Fire returned to the road for a headlining tour this fall alongside extreme metal stalwarts Goatwhore as well as Primate and Lo-Pan (review here) just wrapping up this week, the difference in the band was readily apparent. This too was a kind of comeback, even if the span of time was relatively short. They were focused, driven and delivering a performance that matched the severity of the album while also showcasing a conscious mastery of their environment — i.e. the stage — that even at their most crazed, they’d never had before.

Where High on Fire go from here is anyone’s best guess. European headlining dates set for February 2013 will lead into festival spots at Roadburn and doubtless others, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get another shot at Mayhem next summer — but what matters is that whatever heights High on Fire reach in the next several years, they will have done so on their own terms and by continuing to push themselves forward creatively. They will arrive not bowing to pressure to be something they’ve never been, but as the conquering marauders, axes in hand and blood dripping from their mouths. Nothing could be truer to their spirit.

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High on Fire Interview with Matt Pike: Knuckles Thrash Their Way

Posted in Features on December 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

This wasn’t the first time I’ve spoken to High on Fire guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike for an interview by a longshot, but it was the first time we’ve talked since he got sober earlier this year, and the difference was immediately apparent in his voice. He was about a week into the band’s current tour at the time — with GoatwhorePrimate and Lo-Pan for a five-week round of shows one of which I was fortunate enough to catch — and things were beginning to settle in. This is the first major touring that High on Fire has done since Pike entered rehab over the summer after dropping off the summer’s Mayhem festival, and though he admitted to some apprehension, Pike sounded clear-headed and glad to be back on the road.

Earlier this year, High on Fire revitalized their approach with the scathing De Vermis Mysteriis (review here). Not only in the fact that the album was based around a narrative concept — about a time-traveling Jesus twin — but just in the sheer sound of the thing. Pike, bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensell brought High on Fire’s tightness and chemistry to new levels, and captured by producer Kurt Ballou, songs like the arch-grooving “Madness of an Architect” or the ripping “Spiritual Rites,” the band sounded more vicious than ever before. The rawness of their bombast, something they moved away from with 2010′s Snakes for the Divine (review here), met with a maturity of process and crispness of sound that made the record easily among 2012′s best.

And while that position is nothing new for High on Fire — who’ve gone six full-lengths at this point without a real dud — the context surrounding De Vermis Mysteriis makes it standout as a landmark in the progression of the band, both musically and for the personal issues involved. Seeing them live last week, they’ve lost nothing of their on-stage potency, even if Pike is a little more reserved in his between-song banter — I was reminded a bit of his Sleep bandmate, Al Cisneros — speaking to the crowd rather than barking the war-cries of old. The tradeoff was in the performance, which was stellar, new material or old, and the band seemed poised to pick up their momentum right where they left off prior to the interruption this summer brought.

As honest and sincere as ever in the interview that follows, Pike talks about being on the road sober for the first time, about constructing De Vermis Mysteriis in the studio with Ballou and about the growth of the band as a trio with Matz — who came aboard as a full-time member prior to 2007′s Death is this Communion – taking on an increased role in the songwriting. You may also note I asked him about the Sonic Titan distortion pedal, which was something Jon Davis of Conan had mentioned earlier this year when I asked him about playing with Sleep in Norway. That interview is here if you’d like some context.

Complete Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

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Live Review: High on Fire, Goatwhore, Primate and Lo-Pan in Philly, 11.29.12

Posted in Reviews on December 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Here’s a quick metaphor for how I feel about the city of Philadelphia. I was on my way down to Philly from my office, wanting to get to Union Transfer early to see High on Fire, Goatwhore, Primate and Lo-Pan. And I’m doing my usual not-there-yet stress thing. I’d never been to Union Transfer before, so what if there’s no parking anywhere, what if I can’t find it, what if I drive off the edge of a cliff — all that ultra-reasonable anxiety that sometimes is enough to keep me at home but generally accompanies me one way or another everywhere I go.

Parking space right outside the venue. Maybe 50 feet from the door. Street parking, free because it was after 6:30PM. Once more, Philly, your hospitality astonishes.

It was chilly waiting for the door to open, but I’d listened to enough NPR en route and the cold did me some good. My understanding is Union Transfer is a relatively recent advent, show-wise, and if it was actually a train station at one point, it makes a decent club. The room was sizable and the stage can be moved either forward or back to allow for more space on the floor. It was pretty far up. Apparently advance sales for the Thursday night show weren’t great, so the balcony was also closed, which was a bummer because that’s probably where I’d have been otherwise.

I grabbed a beer early (it would be my only one of the night) and waited about an hour for Lo-Pan to go on, sitting at one of the side tables killing time to the best of my ability. Gradually I made my way toward the floor and then up front. Though the room wasn’t nearly as full as it would be later, there were already a bunch of people there and I figured better safe than taking pictures of the back of some dude’s head.

Of the four bands on the bill, I really only had more than nominal interest in two: Lo-Pan and High on Fire, the bookends on the bill. That said, I hardly suffered through either Primate or Goatwhore‘s sets. It went down like so:

Lo-Pan

I was especially looking forward to seeing Lo-Pan on this tour, it being the hardworking Columbus, Ohio, natives’ biggest yet. They lined up toward the front of the stage, all in a row, from bassist Scott Thompson on down through drummer Jesse Bartz, vocalist Jeff Martin and guitarist Brian Fristoe. Martin, who’s usually in the back while Bartz is out front — at least that’s how it’s been at every Lo-Pan show I’ve seen and I don’t mind saying I’ve seen a few at this point — was up there with everyone else and held his position well, projecting his powerful, soulful voice upward into the mic in front of him. Pipes for days. They played “Colossus” and “Eastern Seas,” the two new songs they had included in their set at the Small Stone Records showcase in Boston at the start of the month (review here), and though the one right after the other threw me for a bit, the driving “Chichen Itza” from Salvador was a highlight and “Dragline” from 2009′s Sasquanaut was something of a surprise. They intended to close with it but were granted some extra time and made the most of it with one more song. It wasn’t the most comfortable I’ve ever seen them, but as the openers, I imagine they’ve made a positive first impression on a lot of heads throughout this tour. They were more than worth showing up early for, and I hope they continue to tour at this level, because they’ve proven that they’re more than ready to carry the flag for heavy rock to a wider audience that won’t know what hit it.

Primate

Seems like the appeal of Atlanta-based grinders Primate was rooted in the fact that the band features Brutal Truth vocalist Kevin Sharp and Mastodon guitarist Bill Kelliher in the lineup. For a more Philly-specific angle, second guitarist Mike Brennan once slung for Philly dirt thrashers Javelina. Whatever the status of that band, his contributions to Primate were in line with the band’s general modus: Play fast, be angry. The barefoot Sharp has nothing to prove as a frontman, and his vocals remained consistently intense throughout the tightly-delivered set. Likewise, Kelliher‘s resume doesn’t exactly need padding at this point either. He made playing fast look like playing slow, hardly breaking a sweat as they went on. A straight-up hardcore punk persisted, and Primate only confirmed their intent with a cover of Black Flag‘s “Rise Above,” which the young dude standing next to me went — pun most definitely intended — apeshit for. He was not alone by any means. Theirs was a different kind of heavy from what I’m used to seeing, but hell man, I’ve done my time with extremity of sound and I can get down with that if need be. Their stuff was pummeling and precise in kind, and when that’s the case, even if it’s not what I’m interested in hearing on a given night, I have a hard time not appreciating it on its own level.

Goatwhore


I’d have to go back and check the archives to be sure, but I think Goatwhore might be the fastest band I’ve ever taken pictures of. Maybe that’s not saying much, considering the context, but still, it was a new experience for me. It’s been more than half a decade since I even really vaguely paid attention to what they had going on, but it didn’t seem at Union Transfer that I’d missed all that much. Frontman Ben Falgoust still had his strangely effective hand gestures and every time I looked at guitarist Sammy Duet, I still just thought to myself, “Wow, he’s the dude from Acid Bath.” So it went. They were pro, though, and made the fine line between metal and capital-h Heavy seem much thicker than it has at other times. Duet spit on the stage at one point and I caught some ricochet, but other than that, it wasn’t unpleasant in the slightest. Despite all the time that’s passed since I heard one of their records, I recognized the breakdown in “Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult,” and that was as much landmark as I really needed. The crowd I guess wasn’t as into it as Falgoust was hoping for, since at one point he reminded from the stage that, “It’s cool to like metal again.” I didn’t know it was ever cool to like metal. Someone better tell Shakira to get on that shit, lest she lose her pop relevance. Either way, when they were done, they broke down their own gear, and for a band who’ve been around as long as they have and toured as much as they have, I found that admirable.

High on Fire

Near as I can tell from the small sample I’ve seen, here’s the difference between watching Matt Pike sober now and Matt Pike not at all sober before: Earlier in his career, he came out on stage like he was swinging a double-sided battle axe and conquered the stage, claiming the heads of any and all who opposed him as though anyone would be foolish enough to attempt such a thing. He was a shirtless madman. That’s enjoyable but hardly sustainable for a career. Now when Matt Pike comes out on stage, it’s not even a question whose stage it is. The battle axe need not apply. He just owns it. That’s not to say High on Fire were in any way lacking their trademark sonic fury, just that it had direction, knew where it was headed and the band — Pike, bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensell — were smarter with the tools of their trade. They fucking killed. Most of the set came from this year’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), set opener “Serums of Laio” even more riotous on stage than it is starting off the record. “Last” and especially “10,000 Years” from the recently-reissued The Art of Self-Defense were highlights, and the moments of slower groove on “DII” or “Madness of an Architect” came as welcome changes of pace from the ripping likes of “Spiritual Rites,” “Fury Whip” or “Devilution.” High on Fire have a catalog of five strong albums to draw from — “Speedwolf” represented 2002′s Surrounded by Thieves — but it was the title-track to 2010′s Snakes for the Divine that did the closing duties, and with its grandiose lead work, it seemed suited to the task. By then I’d long since moved to the back of Union Transfer to extricate myself from the violence up front, but wherever you were, there was no getting away from the fact that High on Fire have pushed themselves forward and that watching them now, there’s no doubt who the headliners are. Pike was more subdued in his stage persona, as one would have to expect, but he still played to the crowd, as did Matz, and Kensell was so buried in his kit you could only really see the top of his head, so if High on Fire have a rock star aura about them, it’s certainly one cast in their own image. However derailed they may have seemed or whatever hit their momentum may have taken earlier this year by their ducking out on the commercial exposure Mayhem fest would’ve brought, they’re back rolling hard and they seem clear-headed and ready for whatever could be coming their way. The stage looked small around them.

I’d taken Friday off from work, but a drive to Boston awaited in the morning and I had a two-hour trip home to my humble river valley, so I was out of there pretty quick once the house lights came on. Of course, it was Philly, so I had no trouble getting to where I was going, hit no traffic and made it home in record time. God damn I love that city.

Extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Neurosis Announce Live Dates in Atlanta, Seattle and Los Angeles

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Some good news from the Neurosis camp and hopefully more to come. Though the band announced yesterday they’d parted ways with visual artist Josh Graham, they’ve just unveiled some new live dates via the PR wire for a lucky handful of people in L.A., Seattle and Atlanta. Dig it:

NEUROSIS: New Stateside Live Actions Declared

NEUROSIS has this week disclosed details on new pending live actions across the country in support of Honor Found In Decay.

Newly locked-down NEUROSIS performances are now set to take place late this year into the first week of 2013 in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Seattle, with tickets for all three shows set to go on sale this Friday, November 30th. Direct ticket links for these shows are posted below, and even more additional tour actions for the group will be announced in the days ahead.

Following their massive, recent release show for Honor Found In Decay in Oakland, this week the collective have traversed the Atlantic for two special UK performances, at ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas hosted by Steve Albini’s band Shellac, followed by a show in London with support from Godflesh.

As critical acclaim of Honor Found In Decay continues to pour in, extensive and in-depth coverage from respected outlets including a feature on the band’s most detrimental influences at Spin, as well as a massive installment of The Out Door at Pitchfork, not to mention dozens of new reviews praising the album have posted. This follows the main cover feature from Decibel Magazine, the main cover feature of The Aquarian Weekly and outstanding new live footage from the Honor Found In Decay record release show.

NEUROSIS

UK Honor Found In Decay Performances:

11/30-12/02/2012 ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas – Camber Sands Holiday Camp, England
12/02/2012 HMV Forum – London, England w/ Godflesh

*NEW – Honor Found In Decay American Live Actions:

12/29/2012 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
1/04/2013 Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
1/05/2013 Showbox at the Market – Seattle, WA

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Scott Kelly Takes to the Woods for “The Sun is Dreaming in My Soul” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

If it seems like kind of a no-brainer to mix performance footage and nature shots to make a Scott Kelly video, it’s only because the songs are so damn organic. My Proud Mountain oversaw the putting together of this clip for “The Sun is Dreaming in My Soul,” from this year’s Scott Kelly and the Road Home full-length, The Forgiven Ghost in Me (review here), which is fitting, since they also released the album in the UK and Europe.

Kelly is on the road currently in that part of the world, and you’ll find his remaining tour dates courtesy of the PR wire after the video below. Please enjoy:

Scott Kelly’s solo tour is now underway and his only UK show at London’s Black heart is looming.

My Proud Mountain have this week released a brand new video for the song ‘The Sun Is Dreaming In The Soul’ – taken from his latest solo album The Forgiven Ghost In Me.

During this tour, Scott Kelly will play songs from his two most recent records which also includes, Songs Of Townes Van Zandt as well as The Forgiven Ghost In Me, both released earlier this year on My Proud Mountain in the UK/EU.

SCOTT KELLY (Neurosis)
Europe Tour 2012

Wed 28.11. FI Turku Klubi
Thu 29.11. FI Oulu Nuclear Nightclub
Tue 04.12. UK London The Black Heart
Wed 05.12. CH Luzern Sedel
Thu 06.12. CH Martigny Sunset Bar
Fri 07.12. CH Moudon Les Prisons
Sat 08.12.CH Delémont SAS
Sun 09.12. IT Parma Bandits Pub
Mon 10.12. GER Karlsruhe Jubez
Tue 11.12. GER Dortmund Pauluskirche
Wed 12.12. GER Leipzig UT Connewitz
Thu 13.12. GER Osnabrück Bastard Club
Fri 14.12. GER Berlin Jägerklause
Sat 15.12. PL Poznan Blue Note
Sun 16.12. GER Hamburg Molotow
Mon 17.12. GER Rostock Mau
Tue 18.12. DK Copenhagen Loppen
Wed 19.12. NL Groningen Simplon
Thu 20.12. NL Tilburg O13
Fri 21.12. LU Luxenbourg Decibal Bar
Sat 22.12. BE Brüssel Ancienne Belgique

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Om Premiere Video for “State of Non-Return” — Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

New Om anything is good news, and this video for the song “State of Non-Return” just premiered today. The song comes from Om’s excellent 2012 offering, Advaitic Songs (review here), and the clip was directed by Terrie Samundra, shot as performance footage from when they put the album to tape, giving a sense of some of the serenity the trio is able to find from heavy tones and the roots of some of their influences.

Find it on the YouTube embed below, followed by accompanying info off the PR wire:

OM just debuted a video for “State of Non Return” from their latest LP Advaitic Songs. It’s an intimate black and white performance video from the recording sessions for the album, showing off both how effortless they make playing it look, as well as how much depth went into the overall process. They’re kicking off a tour in Chicago in a couple of weeks – full dates below.

Full US Tour dates (all with Daniel Higgs)
Sat-Nov-17 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
Sun-Nov-18 Toronto, ON Great Hall
Mon-Nov-19 Montreal, QC Il Motore
Tue-Nov-20 Boston, MA Brighton Music Hall
Wed-Nov-21 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom
Fri-Nov-23 Philadelphia, PA Johnny Brendas
Sat-Nov-24 Baltimore, MD Ottobar
Sun-Nov-25 Chapel Hill, NC Cat’s Cradle
Mon-Nov-26 Atlanta, GA 529
Tue-Nov-27 Nashville, TN Mercy Lounge
Wed-Nov-28 Bloomington, IN Bishop

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Video Premiere: Sleep Live at Scion Rock Fest 2012 & Interview

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 29th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster


How could you not love those faces? So bright-eyed and innocent.

Today, I have the absurdly extreme pleasure of premiering three clips of heavy gods Sleep performing and being interviewed at the 2012 Scion Rock Fest. As with the Church of Misery premiere last week, these videos come courtesy of Scion A/V Metal, and I’m grateful for being given the chance to post them. With a hurricane bearing down outside my window and not knowing how long electricity is going to last, I can think of no better use for it than making public the videos of “Dragonaut,” “Jerusalem Pt. 1″ and the interview below. Well, maybe showering, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

If you’ve been lucky enough to see Sleep in the last couple years, you already know both that the three-piece are something special to behold and that the dynamic between bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also Om), guitarist Matt Pike (also High on Fire) and drummer Jason Roeder (also Neurosis) more than lives up to the legacy they made for themselves with landmark releases like 1993′s classic Sleep’s Holy Mountain, from which “Dragonaut” comes, and the ultimate stoner epic Dopesmoker, from which “Jerusalem Pt. 1″ is derived. As they’ve been playing live the last couple years — Roeder came aboard to replace original drummer Chris Hakius — they’ve broken up the pieces of the hour-long monster and dispersed them into the set, giving the whole thing an unhinged feel and continuing flow. I don’t feel the slightest bit hyperbolic when I say it’s among the heaviest things I’ve ever seen.

Please enjoy “Dragonaut,” “Jerusalem Pt. 1″ and the following interview with Cisneros and Roeder.

Sleep, “Dragonaut” Live at Scion Rock Fest 2012

Sleep, “Jerusalem Pt. 1″ Live at Scion Rock Fest 2012

Sleep Interview at Scion Rock Fest 2012

Thanks again to Scion A/V Metal for the permission to host these clips, and to Sleep, for all the riffs and badassery and crimson dragons and whatnot.

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