High on Fire

When legendary punk/metal vocalist Henry Rollins spoke in Chico the first time, he mentioned that the town reminded him of the film The River’s Edge—a spooky drama about the morals of white-trash kids who listen to speed metal and toke up at the river when not driving around suburban blandness looking for dope. While I don’t find the comparison particularly apt, I remembered the comment when I heard this new record from Matt Pike (ex-Sleep) and Chico favorites High on Fire out of San Fran.

In the purist tradition of Motorhead, this is metal as it was intended: loud, fast and furious with gargantuan guitar riffs torqued into splinters. Guitarist Pike leads the numbing assault with rambunctious playing (solos that veer into schizoid staccato flurries) and hoarse, grumbling vocals barking D&D fantasy lyrics like “The Yeti’s feet take flight upon the tundran ice/ Carries the saucer’s key/ Upon the space bound seed” (from “The Yeti [Ballad of]"). Special mention is deserved to drummer Des Kensel, who holds the explosion together with brutal, dual bass workouts that sound like the beating of bones on ceremonial floor toms.

As I said, for heavy-metal fans this is what it’s all about: the unfettered aggression of distorted guitar/bass that melds gloomy atmospherics of doom with an underlying joy of expression. An authentic alternative to mass-marketed nu-metal on television, High on Fire grinds an angst-chipper for the working class, or as they say (from “Hung, Drawn and Quartered"): “Come all ye losers, don’t you know we’re the children of life?/ Follow me now and we’ll burn down the pillars of time.” Rock.

Rumor mill: High on Fire may be returning to Chico in August.