High On Fire -- Death Is This Communion
Popping in a High On Fire album is an experience that goes beyond just listening to some great metal. Sometimes, with the thundering rhythm section and guitar riffs that hit you with the subtlety of a freight train going off the tracks, it feels more like you're being stampeded by a herd of elephants. Death Is This Communion, the follow up to the amazing Blessed Black Wings, takes the intensity of that album and tightens up the formula just enough to make everything a little...better. The guitar tone is even heavier, the drums are positively seismic, and Matt Pike's vocals are sounding more like Lemmy every day.
The opening track, the aptly-named "Fury Whip," has a fantastic guitar riff, and when Pike starts screaming the title over and over towards the end of the song, you'd swear the world was coming to an end. The 8 1/2 minute title track features a chorus that's actually pretty catchy, and the slower tempo channels Black Sabbath perfectly. The band shows that they're not afraid to do something different by including "Headhunter," which is a one-and-a-half-minute drum solo with very primal, tribal undertones. The genius of this track is that the volume slowly builds until the end, when it feels like your speakers are going to explode from all the pounding. Listening to it on headphones is almost a religious experience. "Rumors of War" is an up-tempo, barnstormer of a song that is very Motorhead-like, both in the vocals and the general feel of the song. Finally, the album closes with "Return to NOD," and while I have no clue what that means, I can tell you that the riffs in this song are absolutely monolithic, and the final minute or so encapsulates everything that this band is about. My only (small) complaint is that the album features not one, not two, but three instrumentals. All of them are great, but on an album with only 11 songs, it seems like a bit too many.
Blessed Black Wings really raised the bar for this band, but like their equally amazing peers in Mastodon and Pig Destroyer, they managed to completely exceed expectations and create a stunning album that is sure to define their careers.
"COLONEL KLINK, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?!"