Music » Critics' Picks

High on Fire with Clutch and Fu Manchu

Wednesday, December 1; Pop's

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What more is rock & roll than riffs, rhythm and attitude? Sure, you can tack a lot of flair on top, but deep down at the foundation, it's this unholy trinity that gives the music its soul. Riffs are the hooks that draw you in, rhythm provides the propulsion and the desire to move, and attitude cements it all together so that it feels just right (even when it's supposed to feel bad). All of the best rock & roll is rebel music, defying not just social conventions, but musical conventions too.

Stoner warriors High on Fire know this all too well. They destroy the insipid conventions of the stoner-rock genre into which they are so often, and so carelessly, lumped -- in other words, no tired rehashes of old Sabbath riffs for them. Make no mistake about it: High on Fire is pure rock & roll, albeit in a most monolithic, white-hot form, much like the meteor that crashed into prehistoric earth, slaying all the dinosaurs. The band virtually embodies the Platonic ideal of the power trio. Guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike (formerly of Sleep), with his raspy growl and absolutely behemoth riffs, crafts grisly songs that cover subject matter ranging from martial arts to flying saucer-piloting yetis to the battle for Zion. Bassist Joe Preston (ex-Melvins, and presently Thrones) lays down a rumble so earth-shaking you could easily mistake it for an army of 100,000 Orcs marching at full speed. And drummer Des Kensel's primal thud hammers home every note like Hephaestus at his forge -- it is the perfect backbone for the colossal beast that is High on Fire. Show up and get crushed.

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