It’s often tempting to stack Matt Pike’s work with High On Fire against that of his other band Sleep, but it never really aids the conversation on either side. For one, they’re two completely different bands at their core, and while High On Fire have been known to incorporate a similarly monolithic, sand-scorched weight into their sound, the roots of trad-metal run far deeper. And it’s not as if they haven’t made a considerable career for themselves either; Electric Messiah is their eighth full-length to date, after all, and it’s not as if they’re showing any signs of slowing down.
And even just on a cursory listen, it’s easy to see how High On Fire have managed to forge their own independent path from Sleep, given just how much more resolutely metal and, well, fiery this actually is. It’s also easy to see how it’s lasted this long as well, as over two decades in, Electric Messiah shows a band continuing to operate with monstrous levels of power and creative impetus that shows no sign of waning any time soon. That said, this definitely feels like an album predominantly for the fans above anyone else, especially those who’ll be able to overlook its more glaring shortcomings like how scratchy the vocal production can come across almost throughout the entire album. It’s certainly tailored to existing fans as well; at nearly an hour of High On Fire’s typically burly metal assault – and considering how long individual tracks can be – this isn’t really the best jumping off point for newcomers.
When considered as such though, Electric Messiah is just as good as you’d expect from a High On Fire album, and packs in the same amount of heft and ferocity that’s typically there. What’s more, this does actually benefit from its extended length, with tracks like Steps Of The Ziggurat / House Of Enlil and Sanctioned Annihilation leveraging their longer runtimes for more complex guitar passages, not necessarily evolving but increasing their hold. Of course, there’s the likes of the title track and God Of The Godless which do away with that more methodical buildup in favour of more raw, blinding rage, but given the mountain-crushing guitar tone used throughout and Pike’s vocal performance that’s more concerned with getting enormous levels of power out than anything else, it works just as well. It’s an incredibly consistent album, both in terms of quality and the handful of sounds it’s built from, but High On Fire are able to make the most of that to craft an album that remains interesting throughout, even if only in its heaviness.
Then again, that’s basically High On Fire in a nutshell nowadays. They’re not really expected to come out with any sort of classic at this point, but quality does suffice overall, and Electric Messiah shows just how that ethos continues to win over. It’s definitely just “another High On Fire album”, and many will undoubtedly view it that way, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and as long as this band can keep it up to the level they have been, another album is always welcome.
For fans of: Mastodon, Electric Wizard, Weedeater
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Electric Messiah’ by High On Fire is released on 5th October on eOne Records.