High on Fire
Death Is This Communion
By Michael Alan Goldberg
(High on Fire performs on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 7 p.m. Admission is free; call 831-1200 or visit www.amoeba.com for more info.)
Already regarded as one of modern metal's most face-meltingly fantastic bands, High on Fire further solidifies its reputation with Death is This Communion, the Oakland trio's fourth, most commanding album. For this outing, the band swapped one rock superproducer (Steve Albini) for another (Jack Endino), and welcomed its third bassist (Jeff Matz, formerly of Zeke) into the fold. But the essential components remain intact. Des Kenzel's drum-bludgeoning comes in thunderous proportions and frontman Matt Pike is a double threat with his wrathful howl and his gargantuan, Iommi-fied guitar work. If anything, the disc is a distillation of the band's potent attack. Aptly titled opener "Fury Whip" rides a lightning riff into the fray for six walloping minutes; the title track and "Rumors of War" charge just as hard. The threesome remains impressively heavy and forbidding even when acoustic guitar comes to the fore, as during the instrumental "Khanrad's Wall," or on the adroit intro to the raging "Cyclopian Scape." The latter track, like the rest of Communion, sounds like an army of darkness bursting through the gates to greatness.