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With High On Fire seemingly getting more popular in recent years, a good deal of speculation was aroused when contemplating how their fifth album would compare to their past efforts. This question seemed to become even harder to answer when Greg Fidelman, the controversial man behind "Death Magnetic" and "World Painted Blood," was named as the producer. Fortunately the band managed to release another solid album with some particularly bitchin' song titles to boot!
Musically, you could say that this is one of the band's most straightforward and aggressive albums to date. For the most part, the experimental touches that dominated 2007's "Death Is This Communion" have been downplayed and the songs are mostly executed in the band's signature thrash/doom sound. Of course, there are plenty of ambitious moments to be found in places such as the impressive title track and the slower "Bastard Samurai."
While nothing really seems to change when looking at the band members' respective performances, it could be argued that the production does help make the listener look at things from a different perspective. Matt Pike's guitar playing is still the band's biggest driving force but his Lemmy-inspired snarl seems to have gotten a little more focused this time around. The production also seems to bring the bass playing out more than usual and the drums are still pretty strong. Bottom line: You don't have to worry about the production on here. Nothing has been ruined!
The songs also manage to show a decent amount of variety in spite of the album's eight-track duration. They mostly consist of fast paced thrashers similar to "Devilution" and "Fury Whip," but there are also a couple slower songs ("Bastard Samurai" and "How Dark We Pray") and a brief interlude/introduction ("The Path") thrown into the mix. As previously stated, the title track and "Bastard Samurai" are definitely my favorite tracks on here though "How Dark We Pray" and "Holy Flames of the Fire Spitter" are make for memorable songs. On the flip side, "The Path" comes off as filler due to it not really standing out in the way that the interludes on "Death Is This Communion" managed to do so.
All in all, this album is another great album worthy of the High On Fire catalogue. It might not as powerful as "Blessed Black Wings" but it does feature its share of good songs and band performances. Come to think of it, it could also be a good first album to get for more speed-oriented listeners.
My Current Favorites:
"Snakes For The Divine," "Frost Hammer," "Bastard Samurai," "How Dark We Pray," and "Holy Flames Of The Fire Spitter"