I’m going to set out my stall from the off here – I LOVE HIGH ON FIRE, and I’ve been living with this record for a couple of weeks now and let me tell you, it’s a HELL of a piece of work that just gets better over time. That said, I shall endeavour to do my best to write a fair and honest review of Snakes For The Divine. Now, as we all know, Matt Pike IS God. Ha. No, only kidding. Seriously though folks….
Straight outta the gates and into your face, HOF opt to give us the title track as an opener, and WHAT an opener! Pike gives us a tapping/hammer-on style riff that powers along with the pummelling drums and rumbling bass of Des Kensel and Jeff Matz as its engine room, before igniting the touchpaper and going into full-on chugging MotorSlayer mode. Pikes vocals are VERY high in the mix – a bone of contention for some, but then I’ve always been partial to his ‘Lemmy- meets- Schuldiner-with-a-mouthful-of-gravel’ vocals, myself – but not at the expense of the clarity of the other three instruments here. Kensel, as ever, is the philthy Motorizer drum-pummeller par excellence, as ever, but mention MUST be made of Jeff Matz bass contribution to this record – whenever Pike drops out of power-chugging and chording on ‘Snakes…’, such as on the hammered main riff, Matz is there to back him up 110%. The man is a bass POWERHOUSE, a rock-solid foundation with a bass sound like, to quote thee mighty Doomlord, ‘Cthulhu’s cock repeatedly smacking you in the forehead’. He even doubles up with Pike and alternates on that magic hammered central riff. What a LEGEND.
Elsewhere on the record we have the mighty ‘Frosthammer’, more power-chugging with pike BELLOWING the title out like his lungs depend upon it, the BRUTAL ‘Ghost Neck’, ‘Holy Flames Of The Fire-Spitter’ and two MONSTROUS, slow-burning and epic respectively, tracks – ‘Bastard Samurai’ and ‘How Dark We Pray’. Two stand-outs on a record chock FULL of ’em, IMHO.
‘Bastard Samurai’ starts with the bass of Jeff Matz being twisted through, I’m GUESSING a Moogerfooger pedal, to give a choral, organ-like tone to its determined chordage, before Pike’s main riff of DOOOOM explodes all over us – think vintage Slayer being played by Greg Anderson. HELL YES. This song is a real brooder, being carried along by Matz philthy bass and a tremeloed, semaphore guitar line with subdued vocals, before Pike explodes ‘SONUVVABITCH SHOULD BLEED AWHIIIIIILE!!’ and all hell breaks loose again in a tense, slow-motion apocalypse. The track moves on into a Celtic Frost paced pound, before Pike gives us some tasty harmonies and his inimitable lead-lines. Like I said, its HARD not to be biased here!!
‘How Dark We Pray’ is this records monster EPIC – starting slowly, with a lengthy instrumental build-up with plenty of interplay between Pike, Matz and Kensel, before blooming into the track proper with MASSIVE riffing and Pike bellowing like an angry bull and showing us EXACTLY why he is held in such high esteem by guitarists of taste the world over. Seriously, when I’m playing and I hit a wall, I think ‘WWMPD?’ and that usually does the trick.
Thankfully, we Europeans also get the excellent bonus track ‘Mystery Of Helm’, which was available only on the US ‘Best Buy’ exclusive version. Which is nice.
So there you have it. My unbiased, hyperbole free review. Well……I DID try. Honest……
Fuck it, its High on Fire and it fucking SLAYS – GET THEE TO THY NEAREST SHOP AND BUY IT, BY CROM!!
Scribed by: Paul Robertson