“Serums of Liao”
Ok, it’s been a while but what better album to kick it back into high gear than the latest from High on Fire. If you need an introduction to this band, you’ve fucked up. Bury your head back in the sand and await the worms that will end your life. I was fortunate enough to catch High on Fire during SxSW here in Austin and was surprised to hear new material from the band. Alas, De Vermis Mysteriis was announced and all I thought about was Lovecraft. Then Matt Pike released a quote, outlying the album’s conceptual background. I won’t bother quoting it, because it’s irrelevant to the review.
High on Fire’s last album, Snakes for the Divine didn’t sizzle for me. In fact, Arik Roper’s artwork was the only thing I really liked. It had been a while since the band had the same intensity of say, Blessed Black Wings or Death is this Communion but don’t cringe, De Vermis Mysteriis has found a place next to them. While Kurt Ballou is no Steve Albini, he did manage to hone the devil within Pike to a sharp ax and chop the mother fucking head off a cave troll.
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“Serums of Liao” was all I needed to hear to know that I’d like this release. That blackened, percussion-heavy, auditory assault is back. The mids, highs and lows all balance out and for over 6 minutes, it’s like Pike said “FUCK YOU, I’M STILL RELEVANT”. Keeping with that intensity is “Bloody Knuckle”, with an intro straight off Death is this Communion‘s tinge. The drums don’t stop there, more tracks spill forth with killer intros. “Fertile Green” kicks up the pace with some stomping breaks. I can’t remember if they played this live when I saw them, but if they did, I was probably tossing skinny kids around like rag dolls.
Distortion, feedback and a ringing riff signals the most brutal fucking track on this album. “Madness Of An Architect” is like Sleep snorted a pile of gun powder and then lit a shot of whiskey on fire. KABOOM. Holy fuck, this one’s good. I’m predictable in that way. You can put a well-composed album together and I’ll dive right into the shallows for a slow and lumbering beast of a track. Just wait for this one. It’s the best song this band’s produced in 6 years, 6 months and 6 days.
The pace keeps slow for “Samsara”, the one instrumental intermission on De Vermis Mysteriis. “Spiritual Rites” plays like the radio-friendly cut, not that it’s bad, it’s just more calculated than the rest of the arrows in the quiver. “King of Days” is another slower procession and at 7 minutes, it still manages to play rather quickly, before leading into “De Vermis Mysteriis”, a real evil little fucker. Something that translates really well in this album is how fucking sinister Pike is looking and sounding these days. His stage presence has improved and his voice has more depth to it, enveloping the venue. Like two children sucking at a wolves tit, “Romulus and Remus” lays the foundation for De Vermis Mysteriis‘s new reign of terror.
I think the old school High on Fire is back and I like it, sealing the deal is “Warhorn”, what an epic name. It’s like High on Fire is leading minions from hell to battle on Earth. Riffs rip apart the air and a billowing plume of smoke arises, to reveal Pike smashing a beer can on his stomach and ripping open a new one. Don’t be mistaken, this is not a kiddie album. Pike comes alive in De Vermis Mysteriis and with “Warhorn’s” mellow vibes, he proves that High on Fire needs not to be forgotten. Keep that fire alive man. Buy this shit on 2XLP and enjoy the burn.