w/Lost Goat, Boulder, Fireshow
Fri July 19, Graceland, $8.
God. Weed. Riffs. According to the gospel of High on Fire, these things constitute the Holy Trinity of heavy rock. Add to that list scruffy beards, weightlifting, Black Sabbath, rabid wildlife creatures, and Green amplifiers--lots of them, turned up as loud as they can go--and you have pretty much summed up the scope, priorities, and overall aesthetic of this dinosaur-weight three-piece from the Bay Area.
High on Fire do not play ballads. Likewise, they do not indulge in feel-good '70s boogie rock or ironic songs about bell-bottoms or driving around the desert in a stupid-looking van. They offer their music in the pursuit of some higher purpose, some spiritual place where getting stoned, meeting God, and uncovering the ultimate tranced-out sludge-metal riff all happen at the same time.
Or something like that. Okay, maybe that language is a little bit weighty in the context of describing a band that plays stoner rock (or, if you prefer, doom metal) and which, admittedly, can be boring when its songs miss the mark (a couple of times per album). But the basic point is this: High on Fire is, with the possible exception of Britain's Electric Wizard or Japan's Boris, the purest and most single-minded of the so-called stoner/ doom-metal bands currently in existence. As with High on Fire guitarist/singer Matt Pike's previous band, the legendary Sleep, you get the feeling that they play this music because they have to--not because they thought, one day, that it might be cool to start a band that sounded a little bit like Black Sabbath, or Budgie, or whomever else. (To be accurate, High on Fire owe as much to Swiss thrash/death-metal pioneers Celtic Frost and to the lurching rhythms of the Melvins as they do to the more predictable '70s influences.) This purity of vision is mainly what separates them from so many in the increasingly drab and predictable stoner genre. But rather than spend any more time trying to pin down their sound, I'll end this on a practical note: Wear earplugs, because this band is really, really loud.