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Ever since viewing the first live video of “Frost Hammer” that was posted onto the internet months before the release of this album, I was eagerly awaiting its release. With this one, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I wasn’t sure how it would compare to ‘Death Is This Communion’, or ‘Surrounded by Thieves’ for the matter. I was a bit frightened that it would not live up to the mighty High on Fire’s standards. But whenever I first put the disc into the computer to import it and to give it a first listen, those expectations were blown out of the water, and I’ve been listening to it nonstop since then.
First off, this album is continued in the same vein as all of the other High on Fire albums have been. As far as the riffs go, they’re basically what you would expect from High on Fire at this point. However, there are a few new things going on as far as guitars go. The intro and chorus riff to “Snakes for the Divine”, the first riff on the whole album, is a new experiment for High on Fire. It’s very melodic with high notes, and carries out a feeling of victory when it’s played. Matt Pike’s guitar solos are also incredible. The album is very bass heavy, in order to make up for only having one guitar I suppose, and it works very well. The bass is most apparent in the song “Bastard Samurai”, which is another new venture for the band. After explosive riffs and drums everything quiets down to a thundering bass riff, and echoing, tremolo-effect guitars, with Pike’s deep vocals roaring with intensity over top.
As far as I can tell, “Bastard Samurai” and some parts of the title track are the larger experiments of the album. The rest is basically how High on Fire has always been. “Frost Hammer”, “Ghost Neck”, “Fire, Flood and Plague”, and “Holy Flames of the Fire Spitter” are the more punishing assaults of the album, with blazing fast riffs and battering drums. “Frost Hammer” is an epic warcry, and brings to the mind visions of Vikings fighting in some mystical, frozen tundra, while the lead riff in “Ghost Neck” bleeds technicality and aggression. “How Dark We Pray” and “Bastard Samurai” are the more mid-paced songs on the album, and they’re two of the best, especially the latter. “Bastard Samurai”, (I know I mentioned it earlier, but it deserves to be mentioned again!) is probably my favorite on the album. At first I was a little put off by it, just because I had never heard High on Fire play any song like this, but after I bought the album and heard it, I was in shock at how great of a song it actually was. Much like “Frost Hammer”, it could be called another battle hymn.
Once again, like all the albums before this one, Des Kensel is the true backbone of the band. The drums are as heavy as can be, and every fill compliments every riff it’s played behind. The drums in “How Dark We Pray” and “Snakes for the Divine” seem to stick to me the most. On this album he definitely continued his tradition of being a drumming powerhouse.
I’m sure a lot of fans were worried whenever they saw that the album was being produced by Greg Fidelman, who some may despise because of his work on Metallica’s ‘Death Magnetic’ and Slayer’s ‘World Painted Blood’. Personally I don’t know why people didn’t like his production on those albums, and I certainly shouldn’t hear anyone complaining about his production on this one. The production fits High on Fire perfectly. At times it is a bit rough sounding, a bit crunchy sounding, or just a bit loud, but all of these things contribute to the band’s sound, just as they always have. I think that he was a great pick for this album, and if Fidelman, or just his production methods, are used in the future, it is completely fine by me.
I personally own the Best Buy version, so I got the three bonus tracks. “Mystery of Helm” is another faster song with some pretty awesome riffs. Not too much stands out about it though. Also included were live versions of two High on Fire classics, “Eyes and Teeth” from ‘Surrounded by Thieves’ and “Cometh Down Hessian” from ‘Blessed Black Wings’, and those are both great additions to the album. But you could easily get by with the eight songs that make up the actually album.
Is this High on Fire’s best? I’m not completely sure. Is it their worst? Certainly not. But what I am completely sure about is that it is a killer addition to the High on Fire catalogue and that it ranks right up there with all of their other albums. This being said, it is a great addition to your collection whether you are a High on Fire fan or not. If you’ve never experience the mighty High on Fire before, this would be a great place to start, and it’s definitely worth the money you spend on it. It’s very early in the year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was possibly the Best Metal Album of 2010.