High on Fire comes from the other side of the holy mountain -- the dark side of the mountain. Guitarist Matt Pike used to bless the chalice for the time-bending juggernaut Sleep, whose epoch-making album Jerusalem will stand eternally triumphant simply because the supersaturated Orange-Amp sustain of Pike's god-tar is still ringing across the universe. With Surrounded by Thieves, High on Fire's second album, Pike pares down Sleep's epic length but relinquishes nothing in depth.
"Make sure your rope is real strong when you hang me," Pike growls midway through "Speedwolf," and he's not kidding. High on Fire is so heavy you'd probably need an anchor chain and a pharaoh's army to hoist it off the ground. Pike's guitar exhales resonant clouds of soul-warming fuzz so thick the air coagulates into sticky green custard in their wake. Meanwhile, 400 miles beneath the Earth's crust, bassist George Rice and drummer Des Kensel concoct a steady-rumbling bottom end that's equal parts molten metal and earthquake panic. Lyrically and visually, the band members mine a barbarian horde/Vikings of Metal theme that mates perfectly with Pike's gravelly lupine howl. They also display a weird, stony sense of humor that proves genius comes in many forms. How many bands are tough enough to sing "The Yeti (Ballad Of)," which postulates their shaggy kinsman's use of Cannabis sativa as the ignition switch for his flying saucer? Yeah, that's right.
High on Fire is more than a name -- it's a way of life. Make it yours.