Album Review: High On Fire - 'De Vermis Mysteriis'

5 April 2012 | 3:18 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Metal guitars and magical beasts.

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According to High On Fire front man Matt Pike, the title of the band's sixth album 'De Vermis Mysteriis' relates to a fictional book of magic created by crime and horror author, Robert Bloch, which was later used in the horror series titled, 'Cthulu Mythos,' written by H.P. Lovecraft.

An interesting start, but the group offer a further back story to their semi-concept album claiming that Pike also had the idea of Jesus Christ having a twin who died at birth to give Jesus his life. The twin became a time traveller at that moment and lives his life only going forward until he finds a scroll from an ancient Chinese alchemist who derived a serum out of the black lotus which causes him to start travelling back in time. He can see the past through his ancestors’ eyes, but his enemies can kill him if they kill the ancestor that he’s seeing through at the time. Pike explains, "Basically, he keeps waking up in other people’s bodies at bad times similar to that old TV show 'Quantum Leap.'"

Now, it is safe to say that the band are on drugs, but seriously, what band isn't, so let's get to the music.

For those that are familiar with Pike's past work, most notably his band Sleep, this grandiose album back story will not come as a surprise, neither will the blistering wall of sound that attacks on album opener Serums Of Liao. The drums are a battering ram that drives sludge rock guitars and a hefty bass line, carrying Pike's tortured, Motorhead/Pirate/Viking-esque vocal lines, with all elements adding to the assault.

Produced by Converge's Kurt Ballou, this is the heaviest, most dense sound the group have ever had, especially in the guitar riffs which are a majority of the songs main focus. There are plenty of intense moments, with the amount of energy and aggression captured in the songs never really letting up until the album's end. Madness Of An Architect takes a while to build but unleashes pure, groove heavy evil when it finally kicks in. King Of Days is a stand out despite the fact it is a dragging demonic anthem which never really lifts its pace, but the guitar lines once again steal the show.

Closing track Warhorn, ties everything together with great dynamics, from its virtually non-existent verse lines to its crushing chorus. The record is extremely cohesive, which is a slight cheat due to the lack of variance in sound, and good luck to those trying to follow its mammoth plot line as well.

Compared to their past efforts, this is one of High On Fire's most brutal records, and one that represents the band's live sound extremely well. Its complex plot line sounds far more magical when explained by the band than the lyrics get across, but really, you are coming hear to have your head torn off by the guitars more than anything else and they will do exactly that.

1. Serums of Liao

2. Bloody Knuckles

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3. Fertile Green

4. Madness of an Architect

5. Samsara

6. Spiritual Rites

7. King of Days

8. De Vermis Mysteriis

9. Romulus and Remus

10. Warhorn

11. Speak in Tongues