Joining a metal band as a young 'un is a bit like getting hired as a burger flipper: you may dream of one day becoming Ray Kroc, but after years of toil, grease, and ridicule, you'll probably settle for store manager. Oakland miscreant and main HOFer Matt Pike managed to circumnavigate the metal-as-franchise thing by creating his own competing chain, a sonic temple fashioned out of pounding riffage, gravel-gargling vocals, guitar solos that approximate the sound of a baby being tossed into a sacrificial pyre, and an unhealthy obsession with Celtic Frost. But after four slabs of pure relentless fury, where else is there to go?
Snakes for the Divine, then, is the sound of High on Fire finally relinquishing a smidge of their endless battery. There's moodiness and jaunty harmonics in modest dollops — enough to send some of the faithful scurrying to their metal-purist blog of choice to curse the blasphemer. Yet despite its glossy finish (courtesy of producer Greg Fidelman, the man responsible for the most recent Metallica and Slayer albums), Snakes is still more Reign in Blood than Diabolus in Musica, if you catch my drift.
The album-opening title track is a beast in typical HOF form, but there's a heaping of melodic heft to Pike's guitar shredocity that makes the medicine go down so much easier than on previous records. And on album highlight "Frost Hammer," it all comes together in a flash of breakneck thrash, sizzling ax, and ogre-taunting bellows gleaned from years of touring with the doom ingénues of Mastodon. After years of being the untrained savage in the china shop of modern metal, HOF may find themselves owning the store with this accomplished thrash platter.
HIGH ON FIRE | Middle East downstairs, 480 Mass Ave, Cambridge | April 7 @ 9 pm | $16 | 617.864.EAST orwww.mideastclub.com