2005 was a not a bad year for High On Fire. Although splitting with bassist George Rice, Matt Pike and Des Kensel were joined by Thrones-man and general legend in the doom-rock field Joe Preston, meaning that their impressive third album Blessed Black Wings, released at the start of the year, would indeed be given the full live treatment that it deserved. By the end of the year and comfortably a new three-piece, the band brought their powerfully hard-rocking metal to England’s South coast, performing in a storming run up to headlining curator’s The Mars Volta before Mastodon.
another solo, foot on the monitor, guitar neck pointing high
For nearly an hour High On Fire sweated out the loudest, ear-crushing riffage playing up to metal cliches and doing so beautifully. Matt Pike just loves finding a huge riff, blasting it out and lapping up the whole scenario – his face then screws up as he plays another solo, foot on the monitor, guitar neck pointing high, before spitting and returning to growl into the microphone, probably, although not always anymore, about smoking weed or similar. Kensel’s drum work is powerful and loud, and Preston performs awesome pummelling bass line over and again.
High On Fire are more than just the riffs, though somehow seeming all and only about them. The pounding that tracks like set finisher “Devilution” offer is impressive and not just simple classic or stoner rock. The fact that the band have worked up such a big following over the last few years is obviously due somewhat to the success of Pike’s former band Sleep, but High On Fire are a distinctly separate entity and each new album and performance like this one brings in more new fans and defines the band’s pure-fucking-balls metal, heavy and loud, fast or slow, whatever. On record they’re big, but live they’re bloody immense.