Reviewed: April 2005
Released: 2005, Relapse Records
Man oh man; they don’t make power trios like this anymore. Ex-Sleep commander Matt Pike has been honing High On Fire’s crushing Motorhead meets thrash stoner crunch over the course of three records, culminating in 2002’s excellent Relapse Records debut, Surrounded By Thieves. That record was a colossal kick in the ass to stoner metal fans everywhere, and it served notice that High On Fire was a masterful entity in its own right, all Sleep comparisons aside. Now, with BLESSED BLACK WINGS (awesome title, awesome cover), the band has firmly blown all of their previous output to smithereens.
Starting with the opening drum frenzy of “Devilution” (Des Kensel’s jaw-dropping drum skills are quite prominent throughout the record), High On Fire bowl you over right out of the gate, and don’t let up until the relatively lucid strains of “Sons of Thunder” are over. Between the two, the band rips from one end of the spectrum to the other, blazing (no pun intended) along a path that is deftly their own. The rumbling “Brother in the Wind” soothes you with a relatively calm vocal from Pike, before the incredibly vicious chug of “Cometh Down Hessian” tears the mood to limp tatters, helped immensely by a perfectly brutal production job that rightly emphasizes the fuzzy power of this band.
Without doubt, High On Fire have improved on each release since their beginning, and BLESSED BLACK WINGS is the apex of their career thus far. Call me impressed. Even though we are still relatively early in the year, I’m sure that this album will rightfully sit high atop many “best of” lists once 2005 comes to a close.
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