High on Fire – Snakes for the Divine

January 01, 1970

(E1 Music)






When an album marks a pronounced step
backward for a group, that album is usually doomed to be dismissed as a lesser
piece of work. Unless, of course, it’s a metal album. Only in metal is the
notion of “getting back to basics” so highly prized, because, after all, it’s
the basics – the riff, the growl, the beat – that make the genre so visceral
and virile. So, when one points out that Snakes
for the Divine
is a definite step backward for Matt Pike and High on Fire
from the relatively exploratory efforts of 2007’s Death Is This Communion, it must be noted that such an observation
is tantamount to high praise indeed.



While Death got bogged down in overwrought and over-slow numbers, Snakes finds Pike revisiting the bruising attack of 2004’s amazing Blessed Black Wings. Of course, there
are some numbers here that take a while to find their footing – the semi-snoozy
intro of “How Dark We Pray” chews up nearly three minutes of an eight-minute
track, and even then, the riff Pike and crew settle upon is more plodding than
punishing – but for the most part, the High on Fire on display here is a
vigorous and reanimated metal machine. Although the title track is the longest
song here, it’s an unrelenting and neck-snapping 8:24 that slows down only long
enough for Pike to deliver a refreshingly fluid solo before tearing back into
the crunchy, doomriding riff at the song’s heart. It’s that heel-to-the-throat
approach that serves the band extremely well on Snakes tracks like “Fire, Flood and Plague” and the roaring
battle-cry of “Frost Hammer”; although
in lesser hands such prolonged punishment could verge on tedium, HOF play solely to their
strengths and deliver an album that’s a glorious step backward indeed.



“Fire, Flood and
Plague,” “Snakes for the Divine” JASON FERGUSON


Leave a Reply