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High on Fire - "Death Is This Communion" (CD)

High on Fire - "Death Is This Communion" CD cover image

"Death Is This Communion" track listing:

1. Fury Whip
2. Waste of Tiamat
3. Death Is This Communion
4. Khanrad's Wall
5. Turk
6. Headhunter
7. Rumors of War
8. Dii
9. Cyclopian Scape
10. Ethereal
11. Return to Nod

Reviewed by on April 9, 2009

"It’s all so aggressive and technical and primal at the same time one loses himself quickly in an ancient ecstasy. "

High on Fire’s fourth album (third with Relapse Records) has been awarded the titles of third best album by of the year by Revolver Magazine, ninth best album of the year by Metalhammer Magazine, and fourth best album of the year for guitar work by Total Guitar Magazine. It deserves all this and more. High on Fire has created a sound that awes listeners with their brutal sound and demands their respect by holding a flaming sword to their throat. “Death is this Communion” is aggressive, mysterious, and drenched in allusions to mythical and biblical stories that one must have the knowledge of a god to understand completely. Or if you don’t care to research all of that history, the music will astound you anyway.

The first song of the album, “Fury Whip,” begins with victorious guitar and marching drums. Pike spurts phrases of kings, fools, demons, and angels in a burned voice. A choir barks in a hardcore style. It’s all so aggressive and technical and primal at the same time one loses himself quickly in an ancient ecstasy.

“Death is this Communion” could almost be the soundtrack for a war movie. Matt growls in a low voice to convey the plan of attack. Then he screams while rushing to the battleground on his mighty horse. The music crescendos and flows throughout the whole album, giving it an organic feel. Matt Pike demonstrates his guitar-playing abilities in every song during the breakdowns when he sweeps his hand up and down the neck and strums at break-neck speed. Des Kensel proves that he is a man of the world by playing drum riffs you can hear in Motorhead to beats heard during tribal warfare. In fact, High on Fire has one song on the album that is a drum solo: “Headhunter.”

Anyone, metalhead or not, can appreciate the stories presented through the poetic lyrics about sea monsters killing their masters and Sumerian and Babylonian gods. All around, the album is pleasing to the ears and imagination (and you may imagine yourself in an opium den surrounded by belly dancers during “Khanrad’s Wall.”)

I thoroughly enjoyed “Death is the Communion” and I’m sure most listeners will also.

Highs: Mythological and Biblical subject matter mixed with technical guitar work came out amazing.

Lows: Lyrics are sung two or three times.

Bottom line: A mind-blowing listening experience every time.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)