Ten years down the road, I can see people referring to Snakes for the Divine (E1, 2010) as "classic metal." It's a natural progression for the genre, like a T-1000 to Motörhead and Iron Maiden's Cyberdyne Model 101. It might not have the nuances of High on Fire's previous effort Death Is This Communion, but there is no lack of dynamics. Matt Pike's guitar tone is cacophonous and builds a wall of sound against Des Kensel's pounding beats. Some have complained about the rhythm section being too low in the mix, but "Fire, Flood & Plague" proves that wrong. Jeff Matz' bass has a big, reverberating quality. He matches up perfectly with Kensel in that "tight but loose" dynamic that Led Zeppelin was known for.

"Bastard Samurai" starts with a phaser pedal riff right out of an '80s Italian horror flick and slips into a sneaky rhythm with Pike whisper-shouting, "Gladiators ring / Sharpening my blade to sting / Son of a bitch your fate I'll bring!" "How Dark We Pray" is the album's centerpiece, like "Death Is This Communion" or "Thraft of Caanan" before it. Pike's meandering solo gradually turns into a tribal lockstep groove, eventually giving way to pummeling verses: "Spirit assassin dressed in black before your shrine / A woman's coffin sending shivers up my spine / Nailed are hands upon the cross so intertwined / A saintly mother sacrificed before your hive."

But as good as Snakes for the Divine is, High on Fire live will always be superior to High on Fire on the stereo. You'll never find yourself thinking about other things during their set. It sucks you in and makes the real world disappear for a few hours, which is what a metal show is all about. With the first tour cycle including Black Cobra and Bison B.C. (and, um, Priestess) as openers (see dates here), there's no excuse not to witness these jams in the flesh.

— Chris Rowella

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