When the epic, vehemently slothful Sleep met their demise through an album-length, 52-minute track called "Jerusalem," guitarist Matt Pike left himself time for little more than a bong hit before founding High on Fire. Of course, Pike continues to pay homage to Black Sabbath's crushing riffs, albeit at a tighter clip than before. But while too many stoner-rock efforts forget about the swinging sticks of Bill Ward, High on Fire incorporates some of the bobbing rhythm that made even Sabbath's ugliest riffs impossibly catchy.
That's not to say that the guys are breaking any new ground. Their latest, Surrounded by Thieves, oscillates between bows to Iommi and the Melvins, while proclamations of "Will work for beer!" and crudely animated flames adorn their website. But those amateurish leanings are betrayed by the determination and insistence of their catalog. Superficial judgments aside, High on Fire's tunes, driven by a locomotive engine of bass and drums, manage to be both sprawling and utterly to the point. Pike's understated leads yield to the force of his riffs, never breaking the dense groove. It might be stuff only a metal fan could love -- but as something every metal fan can love, it's an accomplishment.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.