About High on Fire
With a heavy-handed approach and a sound that crashes like thunder, HIGH ON FIRE has put the power back in ‘power-trio.’ Less a band than a supersonic exercise in conquest by volume and sheer heaviness, the band has burned the metal rulebook and forged a new archetype.
HIGH ON FIRE was formed by guitarist Matt Pike in late summer 1998; a scant six months after the breakup of his previous band, the enigmatic stoner-metal legend SLEEP. Formed out of the need to simply play guitar again, Pike jammed with settled on a line-up of powerhouse drummer Des Kensel and longtime guitarist friend George Rice, who made the switch to bass to round out the trio.
They had scarcely been together for a few months before demo-ing three songs. That demo, featuring “Master of Fists” and instant classics “10,000 Years” and “Blood from Zion,” became among the most sought-after tapes in recent hard rock history. So carefully guarded was the recording, that the tape was the source of much speculation based on the odd tales swirling around the later-days of SLEEP and Pike’s declarations of wanting to create a metal band even heavier and more aggressive than SLEEP.
When the demo surfaced it was immediately clear Pike had succeeded in his goals. Far more direct and concise than its predecessor, HIGH ON FIRE got straight to the point, bashing away with a Neanderthal sense of purpose and creating hypnotic, droning waves of powerful riffs and low-end thunder of the likes not heard before.
Before the band had even made their first live appearance, labels flocked to get a piece of the trio. In the end the band chose to record with the Man’s Ruin label and the demo surfaced in the form of a mini-CD in early ’99, while they continued writing for their debut full-length.
That debut, ‘The Art of Self Defense,’ was recorded in autumn 1999 at Oakland’s Sharkbite Studios with Billy Anderson and fell from the sky in March 2000 to an overwhelming response. Offering respite from commercialized rap-metal and warmed-over stoner-rock clichés of the time, ‘The Art of Self Defense’ served up a rock hard, unorthodox form of modern metal cloaked in strange religious theology. Though easy to pinpoint their influences (SABBATH, CELTIC FROST and other seminal hard-rock outfits), the trio’s style was unique, distinct and absolutely crushing.
Accolades poured in the world over: Rolling Stone, Spin, GQ, Alternative Press, Magnet, Chicago Sun-Times, The Washington Post, Village Voice and dozens of others publications. Almost overnight, HIGH ON FIRE were the unassuming heroes of the “riff” and the most celebrated metal band on the planet. On the waves of such massive exposure, HIGH ON FIRE hit the road. Europe was conquered with ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY and the U.S. taken in two tours of duty.
Summer 2001 saw Man’s Ruin close up shop, leaving the band with no label and no distribution. Relapse offered, the trio accepted, and found themselves a new home. In the meantime, Tee Pee stepped in and re-issued ‘The Art of Self Defense.’ No sooner had the ink dried on the contract before HIGH ON FIRE finished writing and completing a twelve-date West Coast tour prior to entering Prairie Sun Studios (Tom Waits) with Billy Anderson once again. That January ’02 recording session (and the following mixing session at Different Fur Studios) yielded the bands long-awaited sophomore effort ‘Surrounded By Thieves.’
‘Surrounded By Thieves’ is a gargantuan amalgam of huge, expansive riffs that crash and drone simultaneously. Rice’s seismic bass lines bolster everything like huge flotation devices only to be blown apart by the cannon-like drums of Kensel. Pike’s raw throaty vocals surface intermittently, acting both as punctuation as well as it’s own tortured instrument.
Songs such as “Hung, Drawn and Quartered,” “Nemesis,” and “Razorhoof” are staggering in their expanse. Rarely has metal been as powerful and pure in its ability to translate primal fury and aggression.
‘Surrounded By Thieves’ was issued and the HIGH ON FIRE juggernaut celebrated with a marathon North American Tour that saw them traverse the continent for six consecutive months with the likes of SHADOWS FALL, SUPERJOINT RITUAL, MASTODON, MUSHROOMHEAD, and JUCIFER. The trio capped the year with a Japanese headlining tour.
HIGH ON FIRE kicked off 2003 with a performance at the Relapse Contamination Festival and an extensive co-headlining European Tour with MASTODON. The band hit the road with MOTORHEAD and the DWARVES in April, 2003 and followed with a headlining summer U.S. jaunt.
HIGH ON FIRE began 2004 by being named one of Alternative Press Magazine’s “25 Most Important Metal Bands.” The band then announced another U.S. tour, this time headlining the first of several planned 2004 Relapse Contamination label tours beginning March, 2004. HIGH ON FIRE — who debuted new material from the forthcoming follow up to their Relapse debut ‘Surrounded By Thieves’ — were joined by recent Relapse signees ZEKE and instrumental trio DYSRHYTHMIA. The tour also included a stop at the 2004 Relapse Records SXSW showcase.
In the summer of 2004, HIGH ON FIRE underwent a lineup change as the band was joined by bassist Joe Preston (THRONES / ex-MELVINS). Preston replaced long time HIGH ON FIRE bassist George Rice, joining the power trio alongside Pike and Kensel.
Preston made his live debut with HIGH ON FIRE on an August, 14 city trek that took the band to Chicago, IL where they enterd Electrical Audio Studios with engineer Steve Albini (NEUROSIS, JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION, NIRVANA) to record the follow up to 2002’s heralded “Surrounded by Thieves”.
HIGH ON FIRE are a supersonic exercise in conquest by volume. Equal parts molten metal and earthquake panic, HIGH ON FIRE’s MOTORHEAD-meets-SLAYER roar is outrageously loud and absolutely punishing. With their latest release, “Blessed Black Wings”, guitarist / vocalist Matt Pike (ex-SLEEP) unleashes a devastating combination of bombastic guitar and howling war cries, weaving fantastical tales of supernatural beasts, forgotten battles and rivers of blood over an unstoppable bass and drum assault. HIGH ON FIRE are a class unto themselves, manhandling rock music while locking into grooves that transcend time.
HIGH ON FIRE:
Matt Pike: Guitar, Vocals Des Kensel: Drums Joe Preston: Bass