High on Fire, at its best, is better than Sleep. In stoner metal, that's sacrilege, but it's the truth. Former Sleep guitarist Matt Pike, freed up to do his own thing, has discovered new subterranean realms in this ferocious power trio. On HOF's two CDs, 2000's The Art of Self Defense
(Man's Ruin) and the brand-new Surrounded by Thieves
(Relapse), his riffs carve through the air like concrete slabs dropped from 30 stories. The drums rumble and crash, and the vocals are pure hell, roared and grumbled in tones that sound like Tom Waits imitating Lemmy. This is crude, savage stuff, capable of inducing the kind of atavistic pleasure only the best bands inspire.
High on Fire's live rep is sterling, too. Songs like "Eyes & Teeth" -- which, on wax, is a guitar overdose that'll rattle the listener's teeth loose -- are tailor-made for mosh-pit self-destruction. When combined with High on Fire's already-legendary volume, the result is one of the greatest live shows in current metal. If High on Fire's members keep up this pace and quality, they'll be gods five years from now.