There are certain things in life you just come to depend on and expect. Hollywood will try to recreate your favorite movies, and they will all suck. People will place themselves above the proletariat to assume a level of faux superiority [Commie! – Steel Druhm]. We will all die, some more gloriously than others. And, without fail, California’s High on Fire will pummel the bejeebus out of you with every record they release. Oddly enough, going through the search engine on our very website, there are no other reviews for any of their prior albums on here. With Luminiferous, I’m here to rectify that not-so-slight oversight, and maybe bring to light why that is. Holy alliteration, Batman!
Once “The Black Plot” kicks off, you know what to expect: Des Kensel’s war drums galloping with (razor) hoof-like fury, Jeff Matz’s thunderous bass cutting through just enough to secure the backline… and then there are The Riffs. Oh yes, The Riffs. One thing you can never accuse Matt Pike of is the inability to create excruciatingly heavy, monolithic riffs, and they are in abundance on here and the vast majority of Luminiferous. Pike and company sound absolutely recharged and focused, faking us out with a brief moment of silence before galloping forth with a tasty solo and a crushing ending. God… damn.
And the heaviness rarely lets up. You have the very “Hung, Drawn, and Quartered”-vibe of “Carcosa,” the Motorhead-on-Red-Bull rage of “Slave the Hive,” and the near-Sleep-like slow burn of “The Cave” which chronicles Pike’s battles with alcoholism (“Work your art and do it well/Took the road to living hell/Past is then and now is now/Escaped the Reaper with our vow.”) All of it is played well and with little hangups. And this is flat-out amazing, as Luminiferous is the first High on Fire album written and performed by a sober Pike. Anybody who was worried that the band would lose its edge can now sit back and breathe a sigh of relief, as this album is just as monstrous (and in parts, more so) as their storied works, and that, ladies and germs, commands some serious respect.
There are a few caveats, however. The songs can stretch a bit too long, with “Carcosa” and the otherwise incredible closer “The Lethal Chamber” being key examples. Also, they verge on self-plagiarism at times, but then again, Motorhead, Bolt Thrower, and Heaven Shall Burn have made long careers of doing the same damn thing themselves. In terms of sound, Converge‘s Kurt Ballou did an impressive production job here. Matz’s bass is always audible, Kensel utterly destroys and yet the drum sound is still quite powerful and not overly bright. Pike still very much cuts through like a battle-axe, thank the gods.
Luminiferous may not be the best album High on Fire ever put out, but it’s easily in the upper half, just behind Surrounded by Thieves and Death Is This Communion. This is yet another feather in the band’s Viking helmet. Everyone, come get your bludgeon on!