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To escape the seemingly inescapable maze of over processed metal that I'd been dousing my spirit into, I reached out to a few friends. These heavy friends are the odd sort to whom Sir Lord Baltimore is a household name and early Mercyful Fate and Pentagram are given constant spinnage. They suggested I give High On Fire's "Snakes For The Divine" a chance. It was far from my usual meal, yet not too out of the realms of my comfort zones, so I gladly agreed.
I'd always known High On Fire as an ebullient gang of stoners, but after multiple listens of this piece of gold I have to say that barely scratches the surface. Frontman Matt Pike allegedly reveres the "colossal Eighties metal" of bands like Motorhead and this rages in that same spirit, but with more grit and elan than Lemmy and group can coax out these days. The music is dirty, unpolished, and fierce, exactly what anyone would need if they're desperately sick of the modern metal that sounds like its churned out by some supreme soulless machine merchant.
"Snakes For The Divine" is concise and neatly delivered. It takes you back to the good old days when the riff held grand presence and wasn't weighed down by a clutter of melodies and production guilty of nitpicking, yet it still sounds like now. The boys are on some bizarre trip glimpsing the apocalypse, bastard samurais, and other weird commodities, but they never lose the all-important connection with the listener. The music doesn't try to be desperately esoteric. It is only "cult" in the sense that it blissfully ignores today's trends and tags. It seems to gleefully dance across all sub-genres and markings. There's moments of doom and gloom captured in the bowel-shaking heavy riffs of Matt Pike a la "How Dark We Pray", an outlandish display of squealing psychedelic melodies as on the title track and the bludgeoning power of raw thrash metal that seems to grace every track. It could very well be the place Cathedral met Sodom.
There's a natural propellant feel to the music, generally speaking. It is searing and soaring and laden with soul. Jeff Matz's bass rings clearly even when dour and Des Kensel's drumming ably pieces things together. There's not a bad song - heck, there's not a bad moment. This is real gold! Ignore the ear-staining aggro-fare of Lamb Of God and reach for this instead. It just might change your perspective. It certainly did mine!