Matt Pike had a dream:
"When Lemmy was still alive, I always got compared to Lemmy," he recounts discussing HIGH ON FIRE's eighth album, "Electric Messiah". "I had this dream where he got pissed at me. He gave me a bunch of shit, basically, and was hazing me. Not that he didn't approve of me, but like I was being hazed. The song is me telling the world that I could never fill Lemmy's shoes because Lemmy's Lemmy. I wanted to pay homage to him in a great way, and it turned out to be such a good title that the guys said we should call the album 'Electric Messiah'. Although at first, the working title was 'Insect Workout With Lemmy'".
Suffice it to say, nobody is, or ever will be Lemmy Kilmister, yet Matt Pike can take comfort in his own legacy with HIGH ON FIRE, one of the seemingly inextinguishable true metal flames. At this point, HIGH ON FIRE is beyond sludge or stoner designations. Anyone who's followed this band knows that progression is as much to its inventive brand as sludge, punk, thrash and doom. All are present and accounted for on "Electric Messiah", yet this band is even more refined in finessing its cagey ruckus, making it yet another standout release.
It's no surprise that the album begins with a barnstormer, "Spewn from the Earth"; it's the precision and progressive rumble to the cut that sparkles. Blistered with an air of punk—think along the lines of DISCHARGE, MOTÖRHEAD and early METALLICA—on this four-minute track HIGH ON FIRE covers a ridiculous amount of turf. Dumping tribute after tribute in its massive wake, all the aforementioned comparables are equally attributable to the rambunctious thrasher, "Freebooter", later in the album.
It's a risky move to dump a 9:21 sludge epic, noted by Matt Pike as his "rock opera," in the key of THE SWORD's "Age of Winters" and "Gods of the Earth" period as the album's second cut, "Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil". Even more so to expect the listener to take a ten-plus minute ride two tracks later on "Sanctioned Annihilation". Yet the speed-freak mania of the bombastic title cut, one of the fastest tunes HIGH ON FIRE's yet recorded, between them is sensibly planted as a hot-footed breakup.
HIGH ON FIRE skillfully worms through the Sumerian-lore-based "Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil", in which Matt Pike gives voice to three different characters, on the pulse of Jeff Matz's lobbing bass and Pike's feral snarling. The grease of Pike's guitar solos and his transitional fret slide into the pick-up of "Ziggurat/Enlil", a beautifully grueling section hailing HIGH ON FIRE's earlier output, keeps things checked down. Des Kensel leads a gruesome trudge through the doom monster that awakens and engulfs "Sanctioned Annihilation".
A jived-up tempo escorts the entertaining shuffle-stomp of "The Pallid Mask", reminiscent of CORROSION OF CONFORMITY in its morph out of hardcore. The maturity of HIGH ON FIRE's songwriting is further evidenced by the minute-long build-up to an expected propulsion on "God of the Godless". The song blasts where you expect it to, yet there's a lot going on between the thrash, and it's a treat to follow the churning transitions as much as it is to headbang to the raging speed. Hang on tight, because "Freebooter" and "The Witch and the Christ" keeps the jackrabbit concentration fully pressed.
HIGH ON FIRE has long been blessed with black wings, but holy hell do they mean business in 2018.