“Long to live the path that saves my soul
away adapted forced to live so low
Gone’s the will to want to see the light
somber visions cause the path I’ve strived
Sooth the sayer revels in my death
some would think I’m just a lunatic
The blood I bleed must be black indeed
speak the devil in my time of need.”
- High on Fire “Blessed Black Wings”
When High on Fire announced their headlining tour featuring Pallbearer, Lucifer, and Venomous Maximus earlier this year, I was very thrilled. I was excited not only for the tour in general, but also to see that Pallbearer would be playing as well. I had the opportunity to catch High on Fire earlier this year on their refresher tour when they played the New Brookland Tavern in Columbia, S.C. Matt Pike, lead singer of High on Fire, is no stranger to the city of Atlanta. He played there earlier this year in May with his first, and very influential band, Sleep, for a sold out two night gig (Sunday 05/03 at The Masquerade and Monday 05/04 at Center Stage). I was also shocked to find out that this stop of the tour had not sold out prior to day of the event. And to boot, I even got a parking spot directly in front of the Masquerade on North Ave. That never happens and I have been going to the Masquerade for ages… I took this as a good sign of what was to come at the show.
The Houston based band, Venomous Maximus, formed in 2010, opened up the night with their blistering assault of heavy resounding doom metal. They have released two full studio albums, Beg Upon the Light (2012) and Firewalker (2015), and two EPs on Napalm Records. This was my first time watching this band live and I could see the crowd was really into their sound as they were very engaged and attentive to the stage. They played a solid set of material from their discography and were really vocal to the crowd which shows a sign that both sides were enjoying the moment. They finished their set roughly 45 minutes into the hour which gave the stage crew enough time to break down and set up the next band, Lucifer.
Lucifer is a Berlin based doom quartet which includes of ex- The Oath lead vocalist Johanna Sadonis and ex- Cathedral guitarist Garry Jennings. Lucifer is on their first ever North American tour after releasing their debut album, Lucifer I, to critical acclaim earlier this year. Their sound is a cross between Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Blue Oyster Cult if they were fronted by a woman. Her soulful voice is just right for the kind of retro blues metal that they have fashioned into their unique sound. You can feel the deep rooted 70’s rock vibe with their sound and her voice really engages the crowd with each note. I was very impressed with the ease of the band as they went through songs of their recent debut album. The crowd seem energized as well with Lucifer’s nostalgic style as they also played roughly 45 minutes of material before giving way for Little Rock’s Pallbearer.
Personally I have gotten the chance to see these guys a few times before (most recently at Bonnaroo this past June) and I highly recommend them if you are trying to find a different and compelling approach to the doom metal genre. Even their debut album, Sorrow and Extinction (2012), was added to Rolling Stone, Spin, and NPR’s top albums of the year. Instead of following the proverbial leader within this genre, this quartet breaks the traditional mold and delivers a sound that is both distinctive and quite frankly pretty damn remarkable. They played a five song set list between their two albums, Foundations of Burden (2014), which included “Worlds Apart”, “Ghost I Use to Be”, and then “Foreigner” to close out their set.
Well the time had come for Matt Pike, Jeff Matz (bass guitar), and Des Kensel (drummer) to take the stage in front of an energized at the Masquerade. To describe what High on Fire sounds like is best off by comparing them to the sound that two anvils make as they crash together repeatedly. If the band Motorhead had a child, but a much heavier version… this would be High on Fire. It is always a constant barrage of thunderous drum tracks, heavy bass lines, and severely, monstrous guitar riffs when you see this band live. Pike’s presence on stage as the ‘riff lord’ over the years has placed him as a guitar master to many in the metal community.
Pike bellowed into the microphone, “We are High on Fire!” right before intensely starting the song “The Black Plot” off their latest album, Luminiferous. They played 7 tracks off their latest album including “Slave to the Hive”, “The Falconist”, and “Carcosa” from the 13 song set list (including 2 encore songs). For the rest of the set they did play some older tracks like “Cometh Down Hessian”, “Death is this Communion”, and “Rumors of War”. The crowd went ballistic for the duration of their set and you could tell the band was feeding off of this energy. This synergy would normally come as a product of a superb stage presence and performance coupled with a crowd that is highly engaged.
As an encore, High on Fire would close out the night performing “Fertile Green” and one of my favorite tracks, “Snakes for the Divine”. This is more than likely the last time any of these bands will ever play the location in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood called the Masquerade as this area will be under renovation for a new apartment complex in lieu of this historical Atlanta landmark. What a way for these bands to either play for the first or last time at this hallowed venue which will be moving come year’s end. High on Fire is now getting ready for a European tour with Savannah, Georgia based band Black Tusk and Bask that will take them till the end of November in Gothenburg. We can only hope for a second leg of a North American tour that will target those passed over from this behemoth of a line-up.