High on Fire - The Art Of Self Defence (reissue)
Southern Lord
Stoner Metal
11 songs (1:17:01)
Release year: 2012
High on Fire, Southern Lord
Reviewed by Goat

A re-release of the band's debut album, The Art Of Self-Defence will slightly surprise some who are used to High On Fire's modern, very-heavy-metal stoner bellow. It's raw, but also much closer to stoner rock than later albums, having a sense of melody that's a little easier to discern here than on the likes of Blessed Black Wings. And although as you'd expect, the songwriting is rougher around the edges, it still represents a head-bangingly good time from Pike and co, of course, as is evident from the initial seconds of opener Baghdad, Pike's gruff voice buried beneath a heavier-than-time guitar tone that grasps your attention and never lets it go. The band are at their trippiest on the eight-minute 10000 Years, although there's plenty of trippiness to go around if you're listening out for it, the rumbling intensity of Blood From Zion especially causing sparks to fly behind this reviewer's eyes.

Yet this isn't just about said mental sparks, but also about banging your head, and the tectonic shifting of Last practically forces you to move, almighty jerking rumbles like boulders tumbling down a mountainside. Such metaphors are completely valid when discussing music like High On Fire's. You see, heavy music is not always about sheer amount of sound. It's also about suffocating intensity, a wall of guitar riffage that feels like it could throw you down and trample you beneath its feet, and this is what High On Fire showcased with The Art Of Self-Defence. Listen to that opening bass stumble of Fireface, the ominous build-up that lasts two minutes before launching into a rocking challenge to anything Mastodon have done lately - that it goes on for five more minutes of stoner bliss is a bonus.

By the time you've reached Master Of Fists, a ten-minute doom anthem that crawls along the floor delightfully, it's pretty clear that The Art Of Self-Defence is a slab of metal like few others. Rough, unhewn, without the catchy magic that makes their later albums such a pleasant experience to get very drunk to, but still a very enjoyable metal experience for those of us who like it slow. Some of my favourite bands revealed themselves to me instantly, some crept on me slowly - the realisation that I enjoy everything I've heard from High On Fire and reach for them as drunken pleasure de jour puts them in the latter camp, a band I've grown with and learned to love over my metal life. Doubtless it's a band that I'll still be enjoying and re-discovering ten years from now, and there's little more you can ask for. This re-release features three demo versions of tracks, all of which rule. Really, if you don't already own this then Southern Lord have done you a favour.

Killing Songs :
Baghdad, 10000 Years, Blood From Zion, Last, Master Of Fists
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by High on Fire that we have reviewed:
High on Fire - Electric Messiah reviewed by Goat and quoted 82 / 100
High on Fire - Luminiferous reviewed by Goat and quoted 74 / 100
High on Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
High on Fire - Surrounded By Thieves reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
High on Fire - Snakes For The Divine reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
To see all 8 reviews click here
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