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Woe to you of earth and sea, for this time the devil sends the beast from Oakland with mitigated wraith! And the problem is Jesus’ twin, who perished at birth, is reincarnated into a time traveler. The plot for High on Fire’s sixth studio album De Vermis Mysteriis (Mysteries of the Worm) relates the twin’s sci-fi-stoner adventures. But who can decipher the lyrics as delivered by guitarist/cult hero Matt Pike’s wounded hellhound howl?

Worm comes with filler. “Interlude‚” the Black Sabbath-want-to-be instrumental lacks the jazz chops that make the swing of Sabbath’s scythe so devastating. HoF’s forte is hell-bent-for-leather storming; hence, the lumbering “King of Days” just sounds like a calculated breather for their live set.

Yet, stay thy hand, metal fan! All is not lost. Known for firing through producers like Legolas shooting arrows at orcs, the group hits the target with Kurt Ballou (Isis, Torche). Ballou finds the right balance of Middle Earth sludge and bong resin. The album’s best track, “Madness of an Architect‚” benefits from that mixture. Opening with the molten tone of Pike’s guitar (alluding to his days in the glacial-paced Sleep) the band explodes behind him, keeping the proceedings galvanized like a dying god coming into human flesh.

During “Fertile Green,” the group reference Slayer’s “Hell Awaits,” all chugging drop-tuned strings and floor-tom bashing hypnotism. You can almost hear the generals from the back yell, “Charge!” and the subsequent strafing of the ranks.

Here’s to High on Fire’s resurrection!

  • Album: De Vermis Mysteriis
  • Artist: High on Fire
  • Label: Entertainment One Records
  • Songs: (1) Serums of Liao (2) Bloody Knuckles (3) Fertile Green (4) Madness of an Architect (5) Samsara (6) Spiritual Rites (7) King of Days (8) De Vermis Mysteriis (9) Romulus and Remus (10) Warhorn
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