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Album Review: High on Fire ‘Electric Messiah’

A savage, howling offering to Lemmy Kilmister.

I consider myself a kindergartener in the school of metal.

I realize that many in the metal community would tell me, “you will never be one of us,” (I’m looking at you, Nails) but I’m going to go ahead and enjoy this album this High on Fire album anyway.

The record balances considerably heavy bass lines with thrashing  drums and, of course, Matt Pike’s Lemmy-esque growls.

I’ve had a bit of an eye on Pike since my roommate introduced me to his stoner metal band, Sleep — their album from this year, The Sciences, is well worth checking out — as well as High on Fire’s 2015 record Luminiferous. My anticipation for this album was high largely because Pike himself admitted that their newest music was “really difficult,” even for their standards.

If hard rock is indeed a gateway drug to metal,. and as a diehard rock fan myself, “Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil,” very much hits the spot between the two. A squealing guitar solo in front of an ominous backdrop of bass and drums. If you are a rocker getting into metal, this track is a great place to start.  At 9:22,  it takes you through a mythological saga, complete with barbarians, overlords, and an Annunaki queen.

The title track is a perfect homage to Motörhead, the ultimate metal trio. The band thrashes through one of the shortest songs on the album, crashing into a chorus of “Electric messiah/thunder and fire.” It  directly recalls the hallowed cry of “The ace of spades/the ace of spades.” The driving drum beat (I imagine drummer Des Kensel’s arms literally being on fire) combines with a synchronized bass, guitar, and vocal hits. They do this all while paying their respects to Lemmy himself with lines like, “All give praise as the ace hits the stage/ all are amazed at the cards that he played.”

With Halloween still fresh in my mind, I welcome a spooky refrain, and “The Witch and the Christ” absolutely delivers. But fair warning: the nearly two-minute instrumental outro will leave you out of breath and you’ll hardly have time to catch it before being smashed by the 6/8 gallop of “Drowning Dog,” the epic album closer.

As a novice metalhead it was challenging to take the entire album in one sitting. It is very dense and to ingest it all at one time without a refined palate can leave you adrift in a sea of thrashy riffs.

After consideration, I think High on Fire is a back-to-basics metal band, adapting with the times, but at their core always sticking to the roots of the genre with unpretentious technicality. If you appreciate that in a metal band, Electric Messiah offers a lot for you to love.

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