High on Fire - Luminiferous
There are aliens among us. So says David Icke and so says HoF guitarist Matt Pike. The names rhyme. Conspiracy? Coincidence? You decide. Either way Luminiferous’ lead single The Black Plot is a punk and roll, Sabbath/Motörhead collision that outlines Pike’s belief in how aliens have manipulated our past, present and continue to influence our futures. True story or not, it’s a rolling tank of an opening, crushing skulls ‘neath its tracks like the opening sequence of Terminator 2.
High on Fire have been the pummelling the collective heads of the metal community for 17 years now and with 7th LP release Luminiferous, this doesn't look likely to end any time soon. The Oakland trio, Sleep guitarist Matt Pike, drummer Des Kensel and bass player Jeff Matz reconvened with Kurt Ballou (of Converge) at the producers helm and as with 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis have delivered another slice of monolithic power that hails the riff and delivers the fury. In spades.
Pike is a known worshipper at the altar of Iommi and Sabbath, as documented with his work with Sleep, but with High on Fire heavier influences come into play, albeit ones that can all be traced back to this fine lineage. Motörhead is an obvious reference, with the thunderous war drumming and double-bass work all over this release but the thrash paced lead guitar work á la Slayer’s Kerry King is (blood) splattered across title track Luminiferous. Anyone who remotely entertained the idea that a newly sober Pike couldn’t deliver the goods for this release can rest easy. As for Kensel’s drumming, it’s hard to believe there is even a kit left standing when he rises from the stool!
Carcosa bounces along like a Led (sic) Zebedee with a Pike solo that evokes Iommian tastefulness and mastery but with an added touch of fuzz delight. Bang your heads to the thrash salvo of Slave the Hive and scream ‘they’ve got us wired to the reptile brain!’ Possibly in your granny’s face for effect. Or in a church.
The Cave, the first love song Pike ever wrote according to a recent Rolling Stone interview, is a sublime change of pace and smacks of tasteful studio experimentation. The effected vocal line evokes the Sabbs Planet Caravan though it bursts with an aggression absent from that classic. It rises and falls, a lyrical catharsis to the collapse of a recent relationship break-up.
In fact in several ways this is an intensely personal record. The Sunless Year, another standout track, documents Pike’s HIGH-school days when ditching school he “took a lot of acid, learned about music and learned to play guitar”. He goes on to say, “That song is about me making sense out of the world, taking a lot of hallucinogens, learning how to play and learning where I fit in into this chasm that I call Matt Pike. It's definitely about my personal spiritual and cosmic awakening and education. It's very personal. I love that song.”
Conspiracy theories are abundant in this world and a richly mined seam for the lyrical canons of many metal bands. Whether you take these lyrics seriously or not, and I’m not even sure HOF themselves do, is entirely up to you. One thing is guaranteed from a High on Fire release and that is riffs. And big, fuckin’ heavy bastards to boot.
Words: Paul Cooke