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It's taken me ages to get round to reviewing this album, not only because I had been looking forward to it greatly but also due to difficulties in making my mind up with regards "Snakes For the Divine"'s overall quality, as I believe it's predecessor, "Death Is This Communion", was one of the last decade's very best metal albums. In case you didn't know, High on Fire are the perfect definition of a power trio in the metal world of today, full of bad ass riffs and bad ass song titles and with the gravelly vocal spite of mainman Matt Pike an aura that would be destined to supersede Lemmy and his band of Motörheads should that particular warhorse ever call it a day.
High on Fire straddle the line between doom, classic and thrash metal but as the aforementioned Mr. Lemmy would say, it's all goddamn rock'n'roll, and it is that spirit which seeps out of every crevice of High on Fire. Like the days of old the album cover is brilliant and one that pleads to be bought on vinyl, but HoF's biggest nod to the likes of Motörhead and the old-school is their approach to the music. It really is refreshingly simple: High on Fire hit you with riff after riff via the medium of guitar, bass and drums. If you don't like that formula then you simply cannot call yourself a fan of metal and should hand back your membership card immediately.
This sacrifice to the riff is evident from note one of the title track which begins the album, showcasing exactly how HoF will entertain, no frills style. The production job is great for the style; a little less bite (unfortunately) than "Death Is This Communion" but all three instruments are so clearly audible I can't decide which I'm liking the most - Jeff Matz' rampant and heavy bass tone, the dirt-rich sound of Matt Pike's guitar or Des Kensel's drums which sound like, erm, a set of drums. Something not frequent enough today. "Frost Hammer" (one of those bad ass song titles) is the possessor of a fantastically catchy tempo to it, as does "Fire, Flood & Plague" which reaches the near point of thrash while never sounding like that was it's intention. This infact merely sums up how natural the sound and feel of HoF's work is, which given how few other bands can say the same about themselves today is all the better for the respect in which these Californian's are held.
I need not elaborate much about the vocals of Matt Pike these days. He doesn't have the greatest voice per se but his hoarse and throaty yell is befitting to the rough and heavy songs his band blast out and coupled with his skilful riff-writing and soloing in the likes of "How Dark We Pray" surely earns his place in the annals of metal legend (incase his work with legendary stoners Sleep had been forgotten). Despite all my praise and adulation of the entire concept of this band I will not be declaring "Snakes for the Divine" as better than "Death Is This Communion". There is no single track quite as good as that album's title track, "Fury Whip" or "Cyclopian Scape" though "Holy Flames Of The Firespitter" (bad ass title alert) and "Frost Hammer" do give them a run for their money.
In the end this is still a good album, and a good High on Fire album is something most band's could only dream of, but for reasons borne purely of the quality riff found within "Snakes for the Divine" is a small step down from the masterpiece of 2007. However if there is any justice in this world we should see High on Fire continue to rise through the pantheons of metal with this new album and cement their place as one of the most important bands on the modern era as with "Snakes for the Divine" they certainly haven't let us all down.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net