Friday, April 20, 2012

FDF Volume 3 Issue 263 - High on Fire - The Art of Self Defense

Album – The Art of Self Defense
Artist – High on Fire
Key Players - Des Kensel – Drums. George Rice – Bass. Matt Pike – Guitar, Vocals.
Produced By – High on Fire and Billy Anderson

Release Date – March 7, 2000

What caused me to blow off the dust? - The band released a decent new record and I wanted to go back to listen the older stuff.

Overview – This is the debut album from Oakland, California band High On Fire. After Matt Pikes band “Sleep” dissolved he went on to form High on Fire. Blending heavy metal, with a little of stoner, sludge and doom the band would release a series of records and tour. The band has remained a three piece since its inception.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - The six song album (yes its a full length) starts with “Baghdad” in which Pike sets the buzzy tone with overdubbed guitars. Kensel finds the floor toms for the heavy bottom and Rice has a deep crunchy bass. Pike doesn't have much of a vocal range. It's gruff and he doesn't break out of the shell too much. He will go higher on the chorus, but you can tell he is straining. Doing this just makes it heavier and darker. The riffs are big. Real big. The tempo is surprisingly moderate for the weight of the tune with Kensel really finding the deep bottom of this tom toms. Pike takes a run at a solo and it is a decent length that is neither too fast, nor too busy. It comes back to the big buzzy guitar of the intro for a good round off point. A decent solo for the track. “10,000 Years” starts almost with no fade of the prior track. Kensel takes the lead on a slow rolling drum line before Rice joins. His bass seems to find the lowest of the low range and Pike works up over the top before he steps on the overdrive and the guitar gets going. When there are vocals they are short verses, leaving more room for the big wall of sound. Nearing the three minute mark Rice and Pike seem to find one another and the bass has a cleaner punch to it. Kensel just slaps the snare and the band roars back to attention finding those big swampy riffs. They seem to like the riff as they sit on it for a little too long before Pike takes a run at a solo. Kensel and Rice are not to be out done holding everything down tightly. “Blood From Zion” has the slow, swirly then buzzy build up. Kensel rings off the cymbals before the band bears down and takes off. The drum line is a little robotic, but it holds things together as Pike is busy throwing out big riffs as always. Rice has the same line on the bass so he is a little buried until they come out of the verses. About the two minute mark the band changes direction ever so slightly and you can hear Rice go one way as Pike goes the other, only to meet a few bars later. It is a nice break for the guys to show some diversity. You are up against a big wall of sound, and it is easy to get lost in just that “sound” so when things break out it can be refreshing. It keeps right on going as “Last” is up quickly. The band hardly seems to have broken stride and the feel continues to be heavy. The cool part (at least to me) is that music can be heavy like this, but not this fast, over the top double bass drum speed stuff. Its just HEAVY. You want to take a shower after listening to these tunes. Also, you get to think of the times where you hear these trios and wonder how the heck so much noise can be made. Pike really seems to shine on this track with what appears to be his longest, and most complex guitar solo. Rice is the lone player as “Fireface” starts. Striking out a few notes at a time, a progression he follows for the first minute or more of the song before Kensel hits the bass and floor tom with a thunderous “thud” and Rice goes back to his progression. Pike can be heard slowly swirling in the back then it all takes off, but not until two minutes in. The guitars buzz in and out of the bass line from Rice. There are few sections of instrumental breakdown which is always a plus leaving each member on their own. They go for the big downbeat chords and drum strikes over and over before coming to the big rock finish. The record concludes with “Master of Fists” and it finds Pike as the lead doing the slow build and then the band joins in. Pike sounds particularly gruff on the intro to the track. It is another slow burner, really dark and Rice and Kensel keep the thunder rumbles as Pike heads to the solo. After the solo the vocals come back and Pike howls even more aggressively. You can hear his throat seemingly shred to pieces. Pike solos again and the bass level rises up so you can hear more of the melody from Rice.

Where are they now? - The band is still active having just released “De Vermis Mysteriis” on April 3rd. Des and Mike have been constant members. Rice left the band after touring for the follow up (Surrounded by Thieves).

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – Actually seen the band four times. The first was June 28, 2000 at the Linewood Grill in Boston. The funniest point of the night was right before taking the stage, Matt Pike took the mic and said “I am going to go outside and get stoned before we start to come join me”. It was a solid, and very loud set. Took me six years to get to them again when I saw them at the Living Room in Providence on February 4, 2006. By this point it seemed like High On Fire was always playing multi band bills. This night there were four. I did enjoy Big Business, but don't recall much else, other than a fairly tame audience. October 12, 2007 was back at the Living Room to see them again. Again, a multi band bill, but they key on this Mono, a band from Japan that I really like was on the bill. (review I had done for the show can be found here). The last time was December 7, 2009 at the House of Blues in Boston, on support for Mastodon/Dethlok tour. They were great, playing to those that showed up. (Review for that one can be found here). I also swear this is one other time, with them opening for Nashville Pussy, but I don't see the date in my file.

FDF Overall Take – This might not be up your alley as an every day listen, but, if you like some heavy swampy rock and roll, this is for you. I'll be first to admit that Pike doesn't have the best voice (but hey does Bob Dylan?) its all in the music and vibe of the band. Worth checking out and if you get a chance to see them live its usually pretty darn tight.

Get info on it all via the bands web site
Listen to some on myspace
Like em on Facebook

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Blood From Zion (Studio version)

Blood From Zion (live)

Last (studio)


Grab the cd


Post a Comment

<< Home