High on Fire

High on Fire


Am I ever becoming a grumpy old snob. With a group of metal pals in tow, we descended upon Republik on the freezing eve of December 5th for what should have been a robustly stellar lineup: Virginia’s Windhand, who share a member with immaculate doomsters Cough, Norway’s Kvelertak, whose music I’d yet to hear but nearly every reference to them was raving, and Oakland metal heroes, High on Fire.



I really, really wanted to like openers Windhand. No doubt they were good: a sludgy, down-tuned onslaught of doom with uncharacteristic vocals for the genre. Dorthia Cottrell added a unique element, with clean, clear crooning, and, had the music followed suit, they would have transcended into new realms. However, as each song passed, all I could do was say, “Isn’t this the same chord as ‘Funeralopolis’?” “OK, that was the same riff as ‘Satanic Rites of Drugula.’ ” My friends scoffed, arguing that most modern doom is based on the foundations of Electric Wizard. I call bullshit. That’s what jamming is for, for discarding or reworking riffs that sound too much like other bands.



Kvelertak’s sound was not what I expected. It was a mix between the metalcore that Darkest Hour played after they got over their At the Gates worship, the blackened thrash of Skeletonwitch and the rollicking riffs of Thin Lizzy. They were entertaining as hell live and they got the crowd moving. Asses were shaking, heads were banging and horns were thrown. Ultimately it was fun, but it reminded me too much of other bands to get seriously invested in it.

Matt Pike, Des Kensel and Jeff Matz finished off the evening. High on Fire was the undisputed highlight and Pike was, of course, was adorned in his favourite skin shirt. It’s difficult to pick out any part that was particularly remarkable because the set was simply tight and consistent — altogether, simply stellar. Unleashing songs from across their discography, the tunes were tight, rollicking and groovy. Sure, the band hasn’t changed their sound much since unleashing 2005’s Blessed Black Wings, but I’ll be damned if they haven’t perfected being the sludgy version of Motörhead. Despite sharing musical elements with King Lemmy and company, High on Fire are far more than their influences. They’ve found a formula and relay it with finesse. Dat growl. Dat wolf tattoo. Dat Matt Pike. Come back anytime now, ya hear?

Words and photos by Sarah Kitteringham


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