By Anand Venkitachalam
New Delhi, Oct 27 (IANS) American heavy metal band High On Fire released their eighth studio album, “The Electric Messiah”, on October 5, and this can only be described as a sheer 57-minute head-bang fest.
Containing a plethora of monstrous heavy riffs, awesome Judas Priest and Slayer-inspired guitar solos, sludgy thick bass lines and powerhouse drums, complete with frontman Matt Pike’s insane, demented vocals, it would seem that things are looking up for metal this year. With this album, the Oakland stoner/doom/thrash outfit has put out what is undoubtedly one of the finest releases of 2018, and not just in metal, but music in general.
The band’s style of shifting from grinding stoner/sludge/doom metal to some really fast and aggressive thrash metal has never ceased to impress, but the heaviness and overall attitude here is really something else. While there are absolutely no bad songs in this album, “Sanctioned Annihilation”, “Freebooter” and “The Witch And The Christ” are some of the highlights here, each showcasing a particularly flaming atmospheric tone.
The songs on this record are masterfully crafted with the sheer weight of the crushingly heavy riffs making you instantly feel like you’ve just done a line of cocaine, and coupled with the very abrasive vocal delivery you just feel like a total unrestrained barbarian who can do anything. The slower songs, such as “Sanctioned Annihilation” feel like adventures, while tracks like “Drowning Dog” are just classic metal which you can head-bang to till your neck drops. The title track, which is a pure thrasher, pays an amazing tribute to the late frontman of the legendary Motorhead, Lemmy Kilmister; and funnily enough, Pike actually ends up sounding like a more demented and darker version of Lemmy.
But this album is not just pure heavy sound and mindless aggression, there is a lot of dynamic here to keep the listener interested and keep them wanting more. For all the heaviness here, there is tonnes of melodic phrasing, for behind the weight of the crushing riffs there is a lot of melody going on. The production here is very polished and open, but nonetheless the songs here retain a strong, raw, hard edge which is an important factor in making this album so good.
A minor complaint here are Pike’s vocals, which, while awesome, are just really hard to understand. So you should just cast aside any hope of trying to decipher anything he says, because it is highly distorted and that is a shame because the lyrics here are actually very well-written. But that should not be an issue since the lyrics are secondary to the music anyway. Besides, Pike’s very hoarse and unconventional voice is more of an instrument in itself which he is able to use fittingly to convey his message. And not just that — it would not be an exaggeration to say that his vocals are pretty much perfect for the band, like no other singer could deliver it as well as he does.
If you are searching for a record full of gut-wrenching adventurous metal that makes you feel like a warrior in a distant eastern land in ancient times, then you needn’t look any further for “The Electric Messiah” is just that. A repository of face-melting, thunderous, and epic metal songs, this album, just like any High On Fire release, is really heavy and powerful metal packed with barbaric intensity. You always know you are in for an epic adventure and a mystical experience when you listen to a High On Fire record.
(Anand Venkitachalam can be reached at [email protected])