ALBUM REVIEW: High On Fire – Electric Messiah

When High On Fire and Converge guitarist/record producer Kurt Ballou first joined forces for the band’s 2012 release De Vermis Mysteriis there was only going to be one outcome. Disgustingly heavy, guitar-orientated music with a raw finish. Following on from the success of that album the band decided to stick with Ballou for their Luminiferous three years later. High On Fire now have called upon their recent partner in crime for a third time for their eighth full length album Electric Messiah, which frontman/guitarist Matt Pike has described as his tribute to the late, great Lemmy Kilmeister of Motorhead, following a bizarre dream he had following years of comparisons between the two frontmen.

Album opener Spewn From The Earth begins in typical High On Fire fashion, punching you in the face before the bell has even rung with its disgustingly heavy, low end guitar and bass combination. The guitar tone from Pike is as to be expected; tar thick and full of fuzz as he carves out his southern rock-tinged sludgy riffs, with the bass guitar of Jeff Matz and full sounding drum kit of Des Kensel creating a tight rhythm section that rumbles and claps away like thunder throughout. The guitar solo towards the end of the song is a testament to the very ethos that High On Fire seem to go by, and that is to be technically proficient and raw in delivery, without being too squeaky clean and sterile.

The following song is the title track and the main tribute to Lemmy, with the lyrics “All give praise as the ace hits the stage, all are amazed at the cards that he played. My homage paid to the king in his grave. He’s playing bass and melting your face” an indirect description of the great man himself. The track throws down a devilishly evil Black Sabbath enthused riff at the opening, before firing on all cylinders and charging forward high velocity in a style not unlike Motorhead themselves (once again, this appears to be a nod towards the legends themselves). The drumwork from Kensel is up there with the best he has recorded in the band’s twenty year history and drives the song onwards at high velocity. This one is sure to be a fan-favourite whenever it finds its way in to the band’s set-list.

The Pallad Mask contains one of the best clean guitar sounds Pike has ever produced in the opening few seconds, before giving way to a volley of heavily distorted, low end guitar parts in varying speeds. The guitars churn out strummed chord progressions, with the double bass beat from Densel hammering away alongside. The vocals once again are delivered with the kind of raw, throat shredding rasp that sit somewhere between a shout and scream, a skill that very few vocalists in metal music can master, once again carefully maintaining the balance between aggression and melody. The following track God Of The Godless may well be the highlight of the entire album. The opening guitar riff coupled with the galloping drum beat gives way to a high speed verse that sounds almost like something Kreator would deliver. The vocals from Pike are delivered through snarled teeth and sound like the man has been gargling gravel between albums, which makes the fact that the song still maintains a certain level of melody nothing short of amazing.

In the latter stages of the album is the song Freebooter, which sees the band turning their hand to thrash metal. The drum beat from Densel sounds like something Dave Lombardo would have written in the late 1980s, and the stringed instruments sound more hectic than anything else on Electric Messiah. What is impressive here is that the band still sound as hungry as they did two decades ago, and produce the kind of swagger and confidence that bands half their age could only dream of. The guitar solo towards the end of the song is one of the finest to ever spawn from the brain of Matt Pike. He throttles the guitar to within an inch of snapping and bends the strings to breaking point, as the notes wail through the waves of distortion in a truly intoxicating manor.

High On Fire is the gift that keeps on giving. For a band to be eight albums deep into their career and to not of had a dip in form is something that is extremely rare, and the fact that Pike has also released a superb album with his other band Sleep within the past year is a testament to how vast the well of creativity is that this man possesses. This is up there with, if not the best release from the band to date and is set to be a massive hit when the band hit these shores later on in the month. The band live by a very simple ritual and that ritual is as follows: Eat, sleep, riff, and repeat.


Standout Tracks: God Of The Godless, Spewn From The Earth

For Fans Of: Sleep, Motorhead, Crowbar

Written by: Richard Webb 

Tags : High On Fire
Richard Webb
A Kentish lad in his early thirties. I'm a journalist that loves anything grizzly and gruesome whether it's in music, film or art. My guitar and vinyl collections are amongst my prize possessions and my wardrobe is predominantly black.