High on Fire – Luminiferous (eOne)

Thursday, 16th July 2015
Rating: 8/10

It seems as though the longer High on Fire goes into their career, the less interested they are in fooling around. “Fooling around,” as in, ponderous song structures, pretentious soloing, and worse, ideological album themes. Sometimes that’s one of the worst things about hard-driving sludge metal – it tries to be more intelligent than what it really is. Not to say Matt Pike and friends aren’t smart dudes (they are), but with High on Fire, it’s more sledgehammer and heel-tapping than unnecessary distortion and baseless compositions. On Luminiferous (their seventh album), the band is more blunt than ever.

A blow-your-speakers (Manowar-style) production job performed by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou tests the limits of heaviness. Heavier than a heavy song, the boom and boom-ier nature of the album is found, as one would expect, in Pike’s guitar tone. It sinks to some tremendous sonic depths, like on the turnaround riff that holds together the excellent “Carcosa.” It’s the grinding axe on the heads-down “Slave the Hive,” a song that saw previous release as its own single. It’s everywhere, and because Pike doesn’t like to compartmentalize too many notes within his riffs, they are deceptively simple, but precariously bruising.

And like every other High on Fire album, Pike barks along, just more or less there to keep things in order, or to maintain an eye on the situation, sort of like how a dog would with its backyard. But in truth, there’s a trimness to Luminiferous that seems to be fitting for High on Fire circa 2015 more than it would circa 2005. The band has done away with its excesses, realized what it does best, and proceeded to make what should go down as their best album in over a decade. While most bands are slowing down and getting ragged, High on Fire seems to be more within their stride than ever.

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