Woe to you of earth and sea, for this time the devil sends the beast from Oakland with mitigated wraith! And the problem is Jesus’s twin, who perished at birth, but is reincarnated into a time traveler. The plot for High on Fire’s sixth studio album De Vermis Mysteriis (Latin for "Mysteries of the Worm") relates the twin’s sci-fi-stoner adventures. But who can decipher the lyrics as delivered by guitarist/cult hero Matt Pike’s wounded hellhound howl?
Concept usurps riffage! Woe! Where is Grond, the progression that bashes in castle battlements like the namesake from their last album Snakes for the Divine or the juggernaut drumming on "Turk" from Death Is This Communion? Instead, Worm comes with filler. "Interlude" the Black Sabbath-want-to-be instrumental lacks the jazz chops that make the swing of Sabbath’s scythe so devastating. HoF’s forte is hell-bent-for-leather storming; hence the lumbering "King of Days" just sounds like a calculated breather for their live set.
Yet stay thy hand metal fan! All is not lost. Known for firing through producers like Legolas shooting arrows at orcs, the group hit the target with Converge’s Kurt Ballou (Isis, Torche). Ballou finds the right balance of Middle Earth sludge and bong resin. The album’s best track, "Maddness of an Architect", benefits from that mixture. Opening with the molten tone of Pike’s guitar (alluding to his days in the glacial-paced Sleep) the band explodes behind him keeping the proceedings galvanized like a dying god coming into human flesh.
During "Fertile Green," the group reference Slayer’s "Hell Awaits", all chugging drop-tuned strings and floor-tom bashing hypnotism. You can almost hear the generals from the back yell, "Charge!" and the subsequent strafing of the front ranks.
Here’s to High on Fire’s reincarnation!
MP3 Stream: "Madness of an Architect"