High On Fire

The Art Of Self Defense

High On Fire - The Art Of Self Defense ©2000 TeePee
1. Baghdad
2. 10,000 Years
3. Blood From Zion
4. Last
5. Fireface
6. Master Of Fists
7. Steel Shoe
8. The Usurper

Like a stampede of one thousand elephants across a vast, deserted expanse, High on Fire proceeds to pummel the listener with their brand of dense, inhuman stoner rock. With that being said, The Art of Self Defense is one incredibly dynamic, deep, and well-written rock album. With a lineage derived from the mighty Sleep, High on Fire proves that the unique brand of rumbling riffage begat by Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer over three decades ago is still as timeless as it ever was, and some bands (not many, mind you) are still able to do something interesting and unique with it.

High on Fire’s strength lies in the age-old tradition of good songwriting. There is no fooling around with psychedelic noodling or Can-like atmospheric touches. Rather, guitarist/singer Matt Pike, drummer Des Kensel, and bassist George Rice - under the influence of a lot of whiskey and marijuana, I’m sure - realize the importance of the ability to ROCK! Whether it is the rhythmic crunch of opener “Baghdad”, the epic overtones of “Fireface” and “Master of Fists”, the wondrous adaptation of Celtic Frost’s “The Usurper”, the murky, entirely fitting production that makes the music seem as if it were drenched in Jack Daniels, or Matt Pike’s caustic bellow which is perfectly buried underneath the guitars, The Art of Self Defense is simply one hell of a good time. I’d highly suggest anyone even remotely interested in stoner rock to check this album out, as it is doubtful that you will find anything more indicative or representative of the style in 2001.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 06/2002

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Surrounded By Thieves

High On Fire - Surrounded By Thieves ©2002 TeePee
1. Eyes & Teeth
2. Hung, Drawn And Quartered
3. Speedwolf
4. The Yeti (Ballad Of)
5. Nemesis
6. Thraft Of Canaan
7. Surrounded By Thieves
8. Razor Hoof

Alright all you stoner doomsters! Let go of Tony Iommi’s coattails and listen up. Matt Pike is the new game in town, and he and his band of merry marauders are going to proceed to kill you and your pets with a guitar tone that, when treated with heaps of cocaine and whiskey, is made to sound even more unearthly and cavernous than an earthquake in a Gypsy camp.

Imagine, if you will, a barren desert plateau. On one side of the desert is an advancing band of merchants, a caravan. Lurking behind them is a daunting, menacing band of Huns. Seemingly out of nowhere they come running with weapons aloft, mouths agape, and battle-cries resounding at the poor caravan. What High on Fire has done is seemingly capture the horde of advancing Huns in their thirst for blood and gold in an absolutely devastatingly hellish soundtrack.

With all the discursive rambling and imagery aside, Surrounded by Thieves isn’t that far removed from their previous album, The Art of Self-Defense, but dammit, High On Fire do what they do and they do it so exceedingly well that most, if not all, bands of a similar nature would do best to bow down and administer fellatio to a giant stone monument of Matt Pike and crew. However, Surrounded by Thieves’ pure rollicking divinity cannot be entirely attributed to Matt Pike’s distinctive riffing and tone, as rhythm section Des Kensel and George Rice are fucking dynamos at their respective instruments (drums and bass, respectively).

It is all the more apparent that High on Fire is a well-oiled machine; each member adding to the sum of their parts. As Yoda would say, “A darn good time, this album is.”

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 07/2002

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