Electric Messiah by High On FireRelease date: October 5, 2018
A true power trio, for twenty years Oakland’s High On Fire have always remained steadfast in their ethos of playing loud and to the fullest, and through the injection of a more punk/thrash sound since their doomier early days have become one of the most consistent and irresistible heavy metal bands going.
Openly inspired by Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, Electric Messiah is High On Fire’s eighth album and builds upon the pace of their last two (De Vermis Mysteriis from 2012 and 2015’s Luminiferous) whilst also harkening back to the heady stoner-doom from the likes of 2002’s Surrounded By Thieves. Frontman Matt Pike is re-energised; writing and playing for the sheer thrill of it on Electric Messiah and thankfully taking us along for the exhilarating ride. Using proto-thrash touchstones, the majority of the nine tracks on Electric Messiah are punchy, energetic and primordial. The exceptions to this being two longer tracks, ‘Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil’ and ‘Sanctioned Annihilation’, that clock in at around ten minutes each and both showcase High On Fire’s remaining ability to create epic meandering doom, and the most melodic track that the trio have recorded in the album’s closer ‘Drowning Dog’.
High On Fire have a habit of starting albums strongly with a savage salvo and Electric Messiah is no different. Kicking things off with the instant impact of the lively ‘Spewn From The Earth’ Electric Messiah sets out its stall early on. Another of the faster songs and the main tribute to the legacy of Lemmy, the title track pays direct homage to the late heavy metal icon, not just through the lyrics (“My homage paid to the king in his grave, He’s playing bass & he’s melting your face“) but through the blistering speed of the music as well. The taut and direct ‘Electric Messiah’ is a raw, d-beat infused thrash song. The non-stop double kick and pacy fills from Des Kensel on drums and Pike’s stampede of riffs propel the track along in a fitting tribute to the speed-demons in Motörhead.
Working with Kurt Ballou in the studio for the third time has again paid dividends, the production is excellent and even with the layer of fuzz and reverb that is ever present throughout the album, the dynamics of tracks such as the epic ‘Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil’ are clear and really shine through. Throughout Electric Messiah the tone and inertia of Pike’s room-shaking riffs and flailing solos are perfectly captured along with Kensel’s busy drumming and the driving bass-lines of Jeff Matz to create a loud and untamed recording.
A full-on heavy metal assault, with the occasional wander into doom psychedelia, the triumphant Electric Messiah sees High On Fire looking to past masters for inspiration but not lingering on the past.