HIGH ON FIRE – Snakes For The Divine (2010)

If there’s one band who might be able to rival Mastodon for sheer, back-to-basics heavy metal mass appeal, it’s High On Fire. Like Mastodon (or formerly like Mastodon, I should say, given the sprawling, batshit craziness of their last album), High On Fire are big on three things: guitar, war drums, and mythological imagery. Unlike Mastodon, High On Fire don’t engage in highbrow conceptualism; their music is startling in both its immediacy and its simplicity – it exists to devastate, and it often does. So, with that in mind as the end goal, how much devastation does Snakes For The Divine provide us? Well, a fair amount to be sure, but somehow, the album feels lacking in some way, like there was some sort of crucial step that was missed during its creation.

I think the heart of the problem is that the band undeniably have never sounded better, production-wise, than on their second album (and first for Relapse Records), Surrounded By Thieves. No, not even in the extraordinarily capable hands of Steve Albini (the sonic architect behind their Blessed Black Wings) – and considering Albini produced what is, in my opinion, one of the heaviest albums ever (Neurosis’ Times of Grace), that’s really saying something. I dunno. Maybe it’s just me, but High On Fire don’t sound right with any notable degree of crispness to their sound; the guitars need to be low and muddy, the drums wet and booming, the vocals buried behind everything else. You need to feel as though there’s resin seeping out of your speakers. That’s not the feeling I get from Snakes For The Divine, the opening track of which begins with a razor sharp guitar riff that’d fit just as well on an In Flames or AC/DC album. Sure, it’s a fleeting thing, with the bongfuzz guitars coming in right on cue, but still, everything is too clear and precise for my tastes. Add to that fact that a lot of these songs move in circles for too long (despite this album being one of High On Fire’s shortest, it feels like one of their longest).

This is all a detracting shame, really – there’s some great songs on here that get lost in the shuffle (Fire Flood and Plague and Bastard Samurai, especially). But the bottom line is, my brain just does not hold onto them (devastating though they may be). Now, last year around this time, I wrote some very similar sentiments for Kylesa’s latest album , and one year later, I still stand by them (I actually don’t even own Static Tensions anymore; I sold it around September). I fear this may be the future for Snakes For The Divine.

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One Response to “HIGH ON FIRE – Snakes For The Divine (2010)”

  1. Hey, nice piece. I was at the last night of the Missing Link Tour: Mastodon/High On Fire, Baroness+ in Oakland on Saturday. Read my review and see my pics at – http://thespiralscratch.wordpress.com/recent-gigs/missing-link-mastodonhigh-on-fire/

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