So all my mental bullshit about missing some of the Sleep gig was soon put to rest by the return of Matt Pike and High On Fire to Chicago. This was their second time through in support of the ‘Snakes for the Divine’ album and it found them in the middle of a tour dubbed the “Sanctioned Annihilation Tour” also featuring Torche and Kylesa.
I’ve seen Kylesa several times before and they remain one of the best when it comes to just getting down to business. Not a lot of chit-chat between songs and little to no time wasted during their set. If you’re unfamiliar with them, the Savannah, Georgia based quintet (augmented by two drummers) specialize in the heavy with a percussive edge that (not so gently) tiptoes through the land of atmosphere and gravity defining space jams.
Utilizing dual vocals between guitarists Philip Cope and Laura Pleasants these carry the set along and adds to the musical landscape instead of overpowering it. A nice twist to the usual growl-a-thon vocals so prominent in the scene today. In addition to some classic Kylesa material the band premiered a few songs from their forthcoming album, ‘Spiral Shadow’ Kylesa continue to evolve at their own pace which is good enough for me.
Torche were definitely a band I “needed” to see. I needed to know if the hype was to be believed. I picked up their ‘Meanderthal’ album after it was picked as Decibel Magazine’s top “extreme” album of 2008 and I bought it blindly. Didn’t bother to seek out their myspace or whatever, the top “extreme” album needs to be heard, right?
Well what I got was pretty surprising. Their blend of pop-sludge is more akin to Foo Fighters than Fugazi and it took a long, long time to get past the first few songs of said album. I wanted to see them live to see how the slicker than usual material translates on stage, in front of people. What I got was the same thing as the record gave me. It moved me. On record it moves me to change the disc and live they moved me out of the room. Can’t win em all, but hey, someone likes them.
High On Fire simply conquered. The second coming of Celtic Frost meets Motorhead power trio brutality is a lethal locomotive of a band live. Always have been, seemingly always will be and that’s just that. There’s something unique about watching a trio jam, isn’t there? It’s an efficient and highly concentrated force of nature when three people connect and collectively push the music out to the forefront where it belongs. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen with bands featuring more members, but the trio is just, better!
So, like I mentioned previously, this was High On Fire’s second time through Chicago behind the ‘Snakes for the Divine’ album and because of this the new material performed was just out of this world. Opening with “Frost Hammer” it didn’t take long to notice how great the band sounded right out of the gate. Super tight, super heavy, crystal clear and crushing. “Turk,” “Baghdad,” and “Rumors of War,” all each deadlier than the other were then blasted forth.
(Road Cases powered by the devil!)
‘Snakes for the Divine’ was represented with “Bastard Samurai,” “Fire, Flood & Plague” as well as the title track. Now these same three were played back in April when HOF sold out Lincoln Hall and while they kicked ass then, now? Forget about it. The ferociousness in which they were delivered made them sound like totally different songs.
“Bastard Samurai” in particular was fucking EPIC!
A “deep cut” if you will, “Silver Back” from the ‘Blessed Black Wings’ was also pulled out of their hat, very cool and very welcome addition to the set. Now seeing this show was part of the 2010 Riot Fest the set length was slightly abbreviated but the band still had time for a last song which was another ‘Blessed Black Wings’ era track, “Devilution.”
With that the house lights go up, the show is over.
If you don’t know who HOF is or you’re stuck in the mentality that they’re a doom band or a “stoner rock” band or play simplistic rhythms and basic 2 or 3 riff songs, not only are you missing out but you’re also dead fucking wrong. Cheers to Des, Matt and Jeff for five killer albums, a decade of jaw dropping shows, over the top musicianship and last but not least always looking out for their people.