12:03 PM EDT, June 18, 2012
I'm a music snob. I admit it. I'm at my most snobish when discussing metal and all of its various sub-genres. I just feel the mainstream media and major record labels have spent the last 30+ years trying to distort what metal is and should be in favor of achieving a wider audience. It happens in all genres - punk, blues, country, jazz - but I'm most offended where metal is concerned. That's one reason why it's extremely important to me that when a great metal band releases a great album I need to tell as many people as possible about it. Case in point, the newest album from High On Fire.
High On Fire is one of those bands I use as a benchmark when discussing metal music with someone for the first time. They are one of those cult favorites that have been around long enough, put out enough albums, been on enough killer tours that if you call yourself a metal fan you absolutely better have at least heard the name to avoid full on poseur status. They are also a band that has spent close to 15 years now making music that remains as uncompromising and as sadistically heavy as they set out to do when they formed in 1998. I give you Exhibit A: the brand new full length album (the band's sixth) entitled De Vermis Mysteriis.
The album is a pseudo concept record about the time-travelling, lost twin of Jesus (I'm not even making that up, visit the band's website for the full explaination) but like most High On Fire albums the storytelling (and artwork that comes along with it) are just dessert. The real meat and potatoes of a High On Fire album that you pony up to the table for are the bombastic guitar work, the pummeling rhythm section and the downright nightmare inducing vocals lying across the top...and all of these are in great and wonderful abundance here.
Before I go any further, let me set one thing straight - I've liked every single album this band has produced. But certain albums (i.e. 2002's Surrounded By Thieves) were instantaneous classics for me. Other albums (i.e. 2010's Snakes For The Divine) took a little building up to and a handful of listens for me to truly appreciate the craftsmanship behind them. This album falls into the former category as I was completely smitten with it from first listen. De Vermis Mysteriis maybe does the best job out of all their records to combine the Black Sabbath influenced sludgy doom elements of their songwriting pantheon with the balls out thrash attack they are capable of. Songs like "Madness of An Architect" and "Spiritual Rites" are some of the best songs this band has ever written and there are riffs on here that are so dirty that I needed to take a shower after listening to them. This may easily be their best album since the aforementioned Surrounded By Thieves and is a highly recommended affair.
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