HEADLINERS HIGH ON FIRE TO IGNITE DESERTFEST 2018!
For 10,000(ish) years, you have asked us, begged us, pleaded with us and wished with us and now we are ecstatic to reveal that 2018 is the year the rumours of war finally come true: High On Fire will celebrate 20 Sunless Years when they headline Desertfest in Camden Town.
You all know the story. Californian legends of the riff Sleep split in 1998, leaving a void in the stoner ozone that would take significant time to refill. With Cisneros and Hakius now to the left of us and Pike to the right, we were now all collectively stuck in the middle with two very different post-Sleep entities. Whereas Cisneros and Hakius' Om embraced the organic, the spiritual and the natural flows of rhythmic enchantment, Pike's High On Fire opted instead for the breakneck, foot-down, exhaust-blazing approach to primitive piledriving like no-one had ever attempted before.
These experiments worked, of course. They both worked and then some.
Still hugely in love with the amps, the volume, the force and the grandiose nature of Sleep's sound and riff-laden approach, guitarist Matt Pike initially teamed up with drummer Des Kensel and bassist George Rice to find out what would happen if everything were to be sped up just a little. The early results via the commanding The Art of Self Defence and the utterly ferocious Surrounded by Thieves were enormously promising entry points, but few would yet be able to foresee at this stage that High On Fire would not only last the distance in the ring but go on to become one of heavy metal's all-time greatest heavyweight sluggers.
Switching Rice for Joe Preston shortly beforehand, the recording of Blessed Black Wings heralded a new dawn for the HoF; a righteous cacophony of doom-laden majesty that remains to this day some of their finest work. However, it was to be Preston's replacement in ex-Zeke four-stringer Jeff Matz who would ultimately complete this crushing inferno of a jigsaw. Through the near-perfectly calculated abyss of Death is this Communion, the execution of deadly precision on Snakes for the Divine, the dynamic, pounding intensity of De Vermis Mysteriis and the everything-faster-than-everything-else Luminiferous, High On Fire have only ever been very adept at recognising their strengths and building on them. Kensel has quickly developed into one of the heaviest hitting, rapid-firing drummers in world music, Pike has settled heroically into his towering frontman role, with riffs and scorching solos oozing from every pore whilst Matz has added incrementally to a rich, sophisticated rhythm base and bolstered the band's little black book of songwriting at each successive chapter.
The result? Arguably one of the most comfortable, complete and devastatingly powerful trios that heavy music has ever seen, right in the prime of their career, and with a back catalogue that doesn't offer even the slightest hint of filler from any angle. And this coming May, the High On Fire freight-train is coming straight at your face for Desertfest 2018. So from 'Fury Whip' to 'Frost Hammer' and from 'Baghdad' to 'Bloody Knuckles', get ready to grab your neck, your favourite Richard Pryor t-shirt and your ear protection... It's time to get High.
Words: Pete Green