When you’re album takes it’s name from a Cthulhu tome called The Mysteries of the Worm, your ears perk up. When the band interprets it as a time traveling journey of a brother of Jesus, you’re scratching you’re head, but you’re still in it. When it’s High on Fire doing it, you’re fracking sold! On this new album, High on Fire enlist Kurt Ballou (God, I miss Tailspin.) of Converge to produce the band’s 6th LP. In doing so, Ballou has flushed out some strong songwriting, and taken the band in directions, not seen since Death Is This Communion.
With High on Fire, you’re always going to get some great, natural guitars turned up to eleven, a big booming drum sound, and some crazy ass Matt Pike vocals. De Vermis Mysteriis is Matt Pike reliving some of the great arcane moments of his highly influential band Sleep. Their last album, Snakes for the Divine, was steeped in apocryphal literature. With Lovecraft the focus here, High on Fire push their band into geek territory.
Right out of the gate, with the opening track “Serums of Liao,” the band punches you in the face with heavy, sludgy, loud guitars, Pike’s distinct guttural vocal removal fest, and loud soaring drums. The two subsequent tracks – “Bloody Knuckles and “Fertile Green” – continue the beat down of your ears, reaching into your brain and pummeling the hell out of it. While that’s not physically possible, and sounds really stupid, it’s hard to find a better reference.
Where this album really thrives is in variety. It’s been a while since High on Fire put out any well crafted, slower tracks. “King of Days” is a slow incantation that achieves a lot with a little. It almost feels like they’re struggling to keep it slow at points, but they pull it off masterfully. It also doubles like as the longest song on the record, and gives it the perception that the band may have taken a shorter song, and slowed it down to draw it out. On the self titled track, Pike gets a little more melodic with his voice at points, and strangely it doesn’t come off as forced or out of place. The music they’re playing sounds a bit like someone running in place, like they could shred your face off at any second, but pull back. The album closes with the slowest song I think High on Fire have ever written – “Warhorn” – and strangely enough, Pikes vocals, while forced, still work with the song.
With their best record in quite some time, High on Fire deliver a really stellar concept album that is equal parts heavy and equal parts experimental. At times, Pike is his own worst enemy, caught between trying to be more Pantera-esque and trying to solo like it’s nobodies business. While it shows at times, there is no bad track on this record. It seems that Kurt Ballou has brought out a side in this band that has been hidden for quite some time, which opens the band up to explore more areas on their next LPs.
Album Rating: Stream It or Download It (Legally of Course)
Listening Co-efficient: Active Listen
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