Album: Luminiferous
Band: High on Fire
Label: eOne Music
Release Date: June 23rd, 2015
Reviewer: Alex Ghali

Hello, freaks and geeks! It’s time for another album review! Today’s offering comes to you from the slimy, crusty streets of northern California, where goodness dare not go. In case you’ve been living under a rock, denizens of that realm, High on Fire released their 17th album, Luminiferous, not too long ago. Like their previous works, this one is ugly in all the right ways.

Born out of the ashes of the phenomenal Sleep, High on Fire have evolved from your average Stoner/Doom outfit (not to say that they were ever average) to the hard-hitting tsunami of sludge you hear today. Don’t believe me? I’ll let this review do the talking.

The Black Plot
Where other bands start their albums off with ominous, slowly growing intros, High on Fire waste no time by instead opening with a menacing riff to set the stage. Their hardcore and thrash influences are prominent in the frenzied rhythm section, and Matt Pike’s vocal work takes on a more melodic but snarling tone. At 3:53 the song comes to a seemingly abrupt halt, only for the silence to be broken by the filthy, twisted wailing of the concluding guitar solo.

At 0:00 you’re greeted with a merciless double-bass barrage that opens up for the mid-tempo onslaught that is Carcosa. It’s a deceptively complex number: the guitars pound steadily on in groovy stoner/doom fashion, with the vocals layering on an old-school heavy metal feel à la Dio or Grand Magus. The guitar solo brings more traditional blues influences to the table, fragmenting itself to keep your head spinning as you try to catch up with the mid-tempo madness.

The Sunless Years
With melodic riffs, bass lines and vocal work, The Sunless Years brings some order to the chaos that is a bad acid trip. Chock-full of references to conspiracy theories and related delusions, this track’s frantic guitar solo and oppressive closing section drive home this sense of slowly growing madness.

Slave the Hive
More hardcore thrashing to be had in this no-nonsense banger. Slave the Hive comes with a shouted chorus and a mangled guitar solo and angular riffs that would make Discharge and the progenitors of the Bay Area metal scene shed tears of pride.

The Falconist
Slow and melodic, this is the album’s ballad. Bassist Jeff Matz is a rarity among his peers in the genre: instead of slavishly chugging along with the main melodies he instead opts to harmonize with it, and supplements them with well-placed flourishes that showcases the band’s creativity.

The Dark Side of the Compass
This is the nastiest bowl of auditory gumbo you’ve ever had, or the greatest aural orgy that ever was. This is what thrash, sludge, and death metal would sound like if they all gangbanged heavy metal and it gave birth to their child. Pike harmonizes beautifully on the chorus with a wailing guitar, a rarity in any genre (if it’s ever done right).

The Cave
The Cave starts out with a snaking, ominous bassline played in a Hellenic scale. Perhaps it’s an allusion to Plato’s allegory of the cave, but philosophy is for another day. This song is angular, bluesy, trippy, and melodic when it needs to be, setting you on a journey through cobwebs and sinister, subterranean mists in search of an answer to this album’s madness.

This is the title track in one word: chaos. It track begins with a double bass avalanche that leads to a relentless D-beat earthquake. Matt Pike shrieks his lungs out like the hounds of hell are mere inches away from ripping him a new one, while distant cities smolder. Why are cities burning, you ask? Because fuck ‘em, High on Fire says.

The Lethal Chamber
This monolith of doom begins with sinister intentions and ushers the end of Luminiferous. Here the band winds down and returns to their stoner roots as they chug on to the apocalypse, using that last bit of energy to end on a thunderous note (well, it’s really a fadeout, but you get me).

Final thoughts: Production-wise, Luminiferous’ sound is a little lighter and less murky than its predecessor, De Vermis Mysteriis, but does that make it any worse? Absolutely not. With bottomless reserves of energy, influences from all over and beyond, and a drive to keep pushing the envelope, High on Fire deliver solid work yet again with Luminiferous, and already have this fan excited for the next album.

Favorite Tracks: The Cave, The Falconist, The Sunless Years

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