Heavy metal overdrive

High on Fire, Middle East Downstairs, October 11, 2007
By RICHARD BECK  |  October 15, 2007
BIG BLOODY HEARTS: High on Fire are hard not to like.

Metal can be one of pop’s funniest, loudest, most compelling genre exercises. In the hands of Oakland’s High on Fire last Thursday, it was all three. Touring in support of their fourth album, Death Is Our Communion (Relapse), the band didn’t quite fill the Middle East’s downstairs. They were relentlessly aggressive, if not quite angry. And they were pros, soldiering on without complaint through a series of minor and not-so-minor sound problems — specifically, a hazy, bottom-heavy mix that beat down the high end of frontman Mike Pike’s guitar, reducing its natural, ferocious warmth to sludge.

Playing to a gaggle of bumping, moshing zealots camped out in front of the stage, Pike pounded fists, flashed toothy Jack Black grins, and threw down solos as if his guitar were a communal altar. With Pike’s sturdy trunk sweating charisma at the lip of the stage, bassist George Rice and drummer Des Kensel focused on laying down a fluid, roaring foundation. Kensel in particular carved out space with speed and volume, creating exciting rhythms and drawing on a broad tonal palette.

Band and audience exchanged gestures of good will throughout the night. When a crowd surfer who’d surfed his way on stage got rushed out back by a chiseled security guard, Rice glanced behind him with a look of real concern. When a whirling, airborne hoodie got stuck on a stage light, fans paused and took it down. Metal may scowl at the outside world, but High on Fire have a big, bloody heart that’s hard not to like.

Related: Brute forces, Dethklok: Even Better Than The Real Thing, High On Fire | Snakes For The Divine, More more >
  Topics: Live Reviews , Jack Black, George Rice, HIGH ON FIRE,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   PLUCK AND DETERMINATION  |  March 09, 2010
    People have always thought that Joanna Newsom was indulgent. At first, it was about her voice — the kind of nasal yelp that usually keeps a performer from getting on stage at all. Then, on her second album, it was about her vocabulary and her instrumentation.
  •   SONG OF HERSELF  |  August 05, 2009
    "Listen, I will go on record saying I love Feist, I love Neko Case. I love that music. But that shit's easy listening for the twentysomethings. It fucking is. It's not hard to listen to any of that stuff."
  •   DJ QUIK AND KURUPT | BLAQKOUT  |  June 15, 2009
    LA hip-hop has two threads, and DJ Quik pulls both of them. The first is g-funk, a production style that relies on deep, open grooves and an endless parade of funk samples.
  •   FLIPPER | LOVE  |  May 26, 2009
    Flipper formed in San Francisco in 1979, and they're remembered three decades later because of a song called "Sex Bomb" that's one of the funniest pieces of music I've ever heard.
    There were not one but two clarinets on stage at the Somerville Theatre on Tuesday night, and that gives you some idea of how intricate Annie Clark's chamber-pop compositions can be.

 See all articles by: RICHARD BECK