High On Fire
Luminiferous

A long-standing pillar of sonic strength and consistency, High on Fire has built a body of work that demands your fucking respect, even if the album peaks have slightly varied along the way. The dependable quality of High on Fire’s music is increasingly rare to find in bands that remain active over such a lengthy timeframe. Aside from some subtle twists of their signature formula of Slayer meets Motorhead jammed through a stoner sludge grinder, High on Fire hasn’t deviated far from a sound they confidently established many moons ago. The band’s long-awaited seventh full-length offering, entitled Luminiferous, follows-up 2012’s rock solid De Vermis Mysteriis. As much as I enjoyed De Vermis Mysteriis initially, I haven’t revisited the album as often as I would have anticipated. It’s not as though the album was severely lacking in any major way, but it certainly hasn’t inspired the replay value of some of High on Fire’s stronger works.

In contrast Luminiferous offers a more dynamic and overall superior collection of signature High on Fire tunes, built upon a foundation of seriously hefty and inventive rhythms and of course the supreme riffcraft of a newly sober Matt Pike. The gravel-throated frontman leads the way and is well supported by the reliable anchorage of bassist Jeff Matz and stellar talents of drummer Des Kensel. The latter is a fucking beast behind the kit, smashing the skins with the brutal ferocity of a bad tempered caveman and embellishing his power game with deft touches and imaginative fills. Meanwhile any doubts that Pike’s newfound sobriety would diminish the fire in his belly are quickly dispelled on colossal opener “The Black Plot”. The potent high-energy riff monster is propelled by Kensel’s rolling fills and Pike’s authoritative performance and seemingly endless well of catchy and bludgeoning heavy riffs.

The hook-laden and monstrously heavy grunt of “Carcosa” takes it back a notch tempo-wise, plunging forward in a weighty stoner doom trudge. It’s a knockout blow that stands out as one of numerous highlights scattered throughout the album. Elsewhere the dark chugging grooves of mid-paced behemoth “The Falconist” comes loaded with powerful riffage, a stirring climax and killer chorus that’ll stick in your head for days. Songs like this showcase High on Fire’s continued growth as song-writers even this far into their career. The balance is expertly handled as well, with thunderous firecrackers like “Slave the Hive” and the title track supplying turbo-charged, thrashy alternatives to the thick doomier offerings, lending the album a wider dynamic scope.

And while it’s a fair argument that the High on Fire sound hasn’t changed much over the years, Luminiferous wins points for its clever track sequencing and some pleasing song-writing variables. This is arguably the most diverse song-writing performance of High on Fire’s career. The trippy slow-build of “The Cave” carries extra emotional weight behind Pike’s impassioned performance. Lyrically he tackles his rocky struggles with alcoholism, while musically it’s a mature and carefully crafted epic that packs a serious punch, even with the song’s more restrained and melodic sensibilities. On the production front, the experienced Kurt Ballou (Converge, Trap them) lends the album a thick, meaty and slightly muddy crunch that offers ample definition and clarity to each instrument. Pike’s fierce snarl cuts through the mix loud and clear and the drums sound particularly punchy.

Luminiferous may not be High-on Fire’s crowning achievement, but it certainly belongs in the upper tier of the band’s distinguished body of work. Overall High on Fire is back in absolutely top form here, delivering a surprisingly dynamic, emotive and thunderous collection of powerhouse tunes.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
June 30th, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: Jay

    Great review Luke. Like every other HOF, I will buy it. They never disappoint for my money. The first two are my favorites but all of them get a lot of plays. Just got on a kick of Snakes and De Vermiis again today. Really dig those two when the mood is right for ’em.


  2. Commented by: Luke_22

    Thanks Jay. Yeah this is one of their stronger albums in recent years I reckon. Typically powerful and reliable riffage. It’s a nice companion piece to the excellent Goatsnake comeback.


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