High On Fire – Blessed Black Wings Review

Originally written by Drew Ailes

I had no idea that 2005 was going to be such a great year for heavy music. Although I knew High On Fire had a new album coming out, I anticipated the worst. The likelihood of a band releasing three great full length albums seems entirely improbable these days. In addition to the Albini production, Joe Preston of The Melvins replacing George Rice on bass did nothing but increase the hype for this release. The bar was already raised quite high, and it gives me great pleasure to report that Blessed Black Wings exceeds my expectations and helps establish High On Fire as a certain mainstay in metal.

They’ve taken it to the next level by playing exactly what you’d want and expect them to play. The delayed maniacal solos are faster, the epic songwriting is stronger, and the desire to play it as loud as possible is only greater. Classified by most people as a relatively slow and almost lethargic act, Blessed Black Wings proves that High On Fire are just as capable songsmiths regardless of what tempo they’re playing at, using songs like “Devilution” and “Silver Back”. They haven’t exactly changed too profoundly, as the majority of the material still remains rather mid-paced with a sludgy and sluggish emphasis. I also feel like the near-constant touring with Mastodon rubbed off a tad, like on the opening of “Cometh Down Hessian”, an ominous passage featuring only guitar provides a sinister feel before bursting into a dirty combination of Slayer and Motorhead. Their sound just keeps getting bigger and more massive. Surprisingly enough, Relapse also makes the exact same comparison with the two aforementioned legends. It’s usually a rare thing when the label’s description lines up perfectly. It isn’t just wishful thinking on the label’s part. High On Fire has toughened up and reinforced these elements, which before were just casual mentions to describe them. The title track almost has hypnotic presence through it’s chanting chorus and near eight minutes of immense riffing, followed by a faster and more aggressive part which completely takes the song apart. “Sons of Thunder”, a potent instrumental using a finger-picked introduction and ringing chords over Des’ recognizable drumming, finishes off their latest opus by leaving a lasting impression.

Steve Albini is a man who gets quite a bit of credit for his own music in addition to his production, and although I’m slightly bothered that the bass still remains somewhat lost in the mix, the sound is still entirely characteristic of High On Fire – full and thunderous. It should be noted that Pike’s vocals are a little rawer sounding; a subtle but impactful change.

There’s no reason to not own this album, it’s simply excellent. They haven’t done anything radically different, but they’ve progressed enough to give you an incentive to keep eagerly awaiting their next release. When I first heard a lot of these songs at a show, I was blown away. The recording of Blessed Black Wings truly does these tracks more than enough justice, making them just as impressive and effective as the first time I heard them. I had no idea that 2005 was going to be such a great year for heavy music. Although I knew High On Fire had a new album coming out, I anticipated the worst. The likelihood of a band releasing three great full length albums seems entirely improbable these days. In addition to the Albini production, Joe Preston of The Melvins replacing George Rice on bass did nothing but increase the hype for this release. The bar was already raised quite high, and it gives me great pleasure to report that Blessed Black Wings exceeds my expectations and helps establish High On Fire as a certain mainstay in metal. They’ve taken it to the next level by playing exactly what you’d want and expect them to play. The delayed maniacal solos are faster, the epic songwriting is stronger, and the desire to play it as loud as possible is only greater. Classified by most people as a relatively slow and almost lethargic act, Blessed Black Wings proves that High On Fire are just as capable songsmiths regardless of what tempo they’re playing at, using songs like “Devilution” and “Silver Back”. They haven’t exactly changed too profoundly, as the majority of the material still remains rather mid-paced with a sludgy and sluggish emphasis. I also feel like the near-constant touring with Mastodon rubbed off a tad, like on the opening of “Cometh Down Hessian”, an ominous passage featuring only guitar provides a sinister feel before bursting into a dirty combination of Slayer and Motorhead. Their sound just keeps getting bigger and more massive. Surprisingly enough, Relapse also makes the exact same comparison with the two aforementioned legends. It’s usually a rare thing when the label’s description lines up perfectly. It isn’t just wishful thinking on the label’s part. High On Fire has toughened up and reinforced these elements, which before were just casual mentions to describe them. The title track almost has hypnotic presence through it’s chanting chorus and near eight minutes of immense riffing, followed by a faster and more aggressive part which completely takes the song apart. “Sons of Thunder”, a potent instrumental using a finger-picked introduction and ringing chords over Des’ recognizable drumming, finishes off their latest opus by leaving a lasting impression. Steve Albini is a man who gets quite a bit of credit for his own music in addition to his production, and although I’m slightly bothered that the bass still remains somewhat lost in the mix, the sound is still entirely characteristic of High On Fire – full and thunderous. It should be noted that Pike’s vocals are a little rawer sounding; a subtle but impactful change. There’s no reason to not own this album, it’s simply excellent. They haven’t done anything radically different, but they’ve progressed enough to give you an incentive to keep eagerly awaiting their next release. When I first heard a lot of these songs at a show, I was blown away. The recording of Blessed Black Wings truly does these tracks more than enough justice, making them just as impressive and effective as the first time I heard them.

Posted by Old Guard

The retired elite of LastRites/MetalReview.

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