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High On Fire - Snakes For The Divine
23 February 2010

01. Snakes For The Divine
02. Frost Hammer
03. Bastard Samurai
04. Ghost Neck
05. The Path
06. Fire, Flood & Plague
07. How Dark We Pray
08. Holy Flames Of The Fire Spitter
09. Mystery Of Helm [bonus]

Opening with a particularly urgent guitar line before all hell breaks loose, Snakes For the Divine announces the return of High On Fire… a power trio that have drawn comparisons to the legendary Motorhead. It's fitting. It is three guys playing fast, furious and dirty metal.

The first thing longtime High On Fire fans will likely take note of is the production on this release. The production values for the band have morphed from the garage-like sound of Blessed Black Wings to a much cleaner result in Death Is This Communion, which struck a great balance between clear-sounding instruments while still retaining the raw, visceral nature of their music.

The band continued to tinker with their sound a bit on this album - Matt Pike's guitar seems to be a tad quieter in the mix, while his vocals, the bass of Jeff Matz, and Des Kensel's drumming are a bit louder and more prominent. The net result is a slight shift in focus… the slight showcasing is certainly warranted in the case of the Matz and Kensel, whose bruising kitwork and driving basslines provide the titanium-strength backbone that allows Pike to go riff and solo nuts on his 9-string.

In the case of Pike's vocals, well, he isn't going to be unseating Halford or Dio in any "best voice in metal" polls… the added attention occasionally shows some slight timbre in his voice that makes him sound part Dalek. That said, Pike's gruff, throaty vocals fit this band perfectly. (For fun, listen to the second track on the album and try to imagine Halford belting out FROST HAMMERRRR!! in his high pitched style… no thanks. Great vocalist, but Pike is the man for this band.)

The production, while not as good as on Death Is This Communion isn't bad, but it does sound a tad odd initially and takes some getting used to.

While the shift in sound takes some acclimatization, it's still a High On Fire record, and fans of the band (Flamers?) know what that means… about an hour of amazing riffs, unconventional shredding, pounding drums, and tight basslines. Of note, the segue way moments found connecting the tracks in their last album are absent, but not missed on this particular release. They worked beautifully then, but the clear-cut separation of songs fits this album.

Tracks like "Fire, Flood & Plague" and "Ghost Neck" feature the band at their balls-out, horn-raising, whisky and beer-fueled best, while "Bastard Samurai" showcases the slower, stoner doom approach that recalls the band's earlier days. The cool "Hoo-HA!" backing vocals found in "Holy Flames Of The Fire Spitter" give that song an almost tribal feel, perfectly fitting a band whose imagery and lyrics often inspire images of barbarian clans doing battle with lizardmen in frozen tundra or sweeping plains.

Given this release is a follow-up to the brilliant Death Is This Communion and was originaly slated to come out in 2009, there was some hype and high hopes amongst High fans… and this is one album that doesn't fall short of those lofty expectations.

Raise a pint and some horns and sing along…


Performance: 9
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Production: 7

Band profile: High On Fire
Album: Snakes For The Divine


Written on 05.03.2010 by
BitterCOld has been officially reviewing albums for MetalStorm since 2009.
More reviews by BitterCOld ››


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Comments: 4  
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oroboros - 06.03.2010 at 07:45  
Spot on review of an insane album..
Visioneerie - 08.03.2010 at 01:50  
I'm going to check this out, after a few short listens of some of the songs I have a good impression.
bloodwrage - 12.03.2010 at 22:30  
Great review man, definitely getting it now. "Flamers?" lmao
soadbyob - 23.04.2010 at 04:43  
Amazing album, HOF never fail to please!

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