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Oakland sludge trio High on Fire has kept the heavy-metal flame alive and burning for 14 years, having formed following guitarist/singer Matt Pike’s time in doom/stoner group Sleep. And with each new chapter in the band’s scorching legacy, Pike, drummer Des Kensel, and bassist Jeff Matz further challenge what a power trio can do. Somehow, over time, they’ve managed to grow louder, more epic, and even catchier.
The band’s sixth album, De Vermis Mysteriis, in many ways is classic High on Fire. Recorded with Converge’s Kurt Ballou, it balances punishing sludge riffs with epic solos and high-octane tempos. The first half alone is an exercise in ferocity: “Bloody Knuckles” pounds out a hook-laden variation of the band’s classic churn; “Fertile Green” lunges into an ultra-menacing stomp; “Madness of an Architect” taps into its Sabbath-y roots for old-fashioned doom.
Here Kensel speaks about going back to basics, writing in the studio, and “Eureka!” moments.