Sunday, July 19, 2015

Review of High On Fire's Luminiferous

High On Fire isn't at the point where they're making the same album every time but you can always tell what to expect whenever they do release something new. Each of their efforts has its unique flavors but they never venture too far from their established Motorhead meets Celtic Frost brand of sludge. Their seventh full-length has been hyped for being the first that guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike has recorded (relatively) sober and for its conspiracy theory themed lyrics, though anyone who knows anything about the band shouldn't be so surprised by the latter element.

On a musical level, Luminiferous just might be the most straightforward album that High On Fire has ever put out. Past albums such as Death Is This Communion stood out for the epic structures and exotic instrumentation that went along with the thunderous aggression, the songs on here tend to just opt for the thunderous aggression and are based more on speed than anything else. This is most evident on "Slave The Hive" and the title track, both of which border on all-out thrash metal.

The musicians' performances are also a bit basic this time around, especially when compared to the brilliant intensity that was captured on De Mysteriis Vermis. Des Kensel's drums are as powerful as always but they aren't quite as flashy as bassist Jeff Matz only seems to shine on "The Cave." Fortunately, Pike's riffing patterns are as bludgeoning as ever and his gravelly howl has an odd way of making one feel right at home.

A smaller scale thankfully doesn't mean incompetent songwriting as the songs on here retain that solid High On Fire quality. "The Black Plot" and "Carcosa" start things off in an intense fashion and "The Falconist" and "The Lethal Chamber" feature some excellent mid-tempo riffs, but "The Cave" is easily the strongest standout on here. Its dreamlike vocal effects and spacy bass work make it one of the band's more unique slow tracks. It's also yet another track in the vein of "Bastard Samurai" and "Warhorn" that makes me that much more curious to see how that ever elusive Sleep album will turn out when it's ready...

Luminiferous does lose a bit of its impact when compared to the awesome De Mysteriis Vermis but it's a great album that stays true to their monolithic sound. More traditional metal fans may take to the faster approach and it has some of the band's best songs to date. Part of me is wondering if the risk of stagnancy is on the horizon but stuff like this will keep me more than satisfied.

"The Black Plot"
"The Falconist"
"The Cave"
"The Lethal Chamber"

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