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Blessed Black Wings

High On Fire

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Album Review

For some fans, the news that Steve Albini had been tapped to produce High on Fire's third long-player was a matter of great concern for many reasons — chief among them, the renowned alternative rock producer's notoriety for ultra-compressed guitar sounds, which seemed utterly at odds with the California trio's most deadly weapon: guitarist and frontman Matt Pike's thundering riffage. Thankfully, such fears ultimately proved unjustified when the end result, 2005's Blessed Black Wings, wound up delivering galloping heavy metal with every bit as much volume and distortion as the band's breakthrough previous effort, Surrounded by Thieves. So much so that the million-dollar question now becomes: "Are the two albums too similar?" Aesthetically, the answer is most certainly yes, since High on Fire's rhythm section (now featuring new bassist Joe Preston, joining longtime drummer Des Kensel) remains every bit as pummeling, and Pike's six-string supremacy just as unchallenged, his solos ever prostrating themselves before the Neolithic power chord onslaught of his cross-the-neck slashing. Tracks like "Devilution," "Cometh Down Hessian," and "Silver Back" are all fire-breathing, semi-thrash rampages; the old-school metal pounding of the title track and closing instrumental "Sons of Thunder" is clearly reverential of Pike's beloved Celtic Frost; and the awe-inspiring, power chord colossus "Brother in the Wind" — all rippling and tearing of muscle — easily qualifies as a career highlight on par with anything offered by sterling predecessor Surrounded by Thieves. In fact, Blessed Black Wings could have used a few more overwhelming epics of this older stripe, since novelties like the clean, string-picking passages snuck into otherwise crushing tracks like "The Face of Oblivion" and much previewed live number "To Cross the Bridge," or the understated punk rock element found in the tighter riffs of "Anointing of Seer," prove all too subtle to constitute true innovation. In other words, the bulk of Blessed Black Wings follows the same formula that proved so successful for High on Fire in days past — maybe a problem for those intent on forging ever forward, but hardly a bad thing when the point of origin was so damn good to begin with. And, truth is, few bands would be capable of achieving such a primal, yet thoroughly modern-sounding heavy metal album even on their most inspired moments.

Customer Reviews

One long high point

This album is just fabulous. It pummels, yes, but also packs in an amazing amount of emotion. My favorite is Brother in the Wind. It's pretty amazing how beautiful this song can be, given it's a full-on power chord assault. Matt Pike at his best.

yeah i said it

who dared to compare this masterpeice of metal to the lowly "the sword"? Put away your ten-sided dice, nerd. Rock on High On Fire, rock on.

One of the best albums of 2005

High On Fire's "Blessed Black Wings" is the biggest jewel in the crown of Matt Pike's metal juggernaut so far. Comparisons to 2002's "Surrounded By Thieves" are valid on the surface, as the two albums do have quite a few similarities. But the songwriting and playing on "Blessed Black Wings" is head and shoulders above anything else in High On Fire's already-incredible catalog. Steve Albini's austere production leaves buzzing guitar and bass, howling vocals, battered drums and little else; yet it still somehow manages to sound thick, even lush. Pike's grim shrieking and masterful guitarwork is highlighted here, and it's a testament to the strength and development of his band's sound. Highly recommended. Overall: an almost perfect metal album and one of my favorite albums of the past year, regardless of genre. Standouts (for me at least) include the ultra-heavy "Anointing of Seer," the almost-accessible "Brother in the Wind" and the album-opening challenge to George W. Bush, "Devilution."

Biography

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike, bass player George Rice, and drummer Des Kensel formed High on Fire in 1999, following the collapse of Pike's previous band, doom metal titans Sleep. But while Sleep had built their fame on impossibly slothful tunes and copious weed consumption, High on Fire's first release, The Art of Self Defense, displayed a far more aggressive though still fantasy-themed style of heavy metal. Released to mildly enthusiastic reviews, the album's prospects suffered from label Man's...
Full Bio
Blessed Black Wings, High On Fire
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Customer Ratings

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