Year : 2012
Genre : Sludge / Stoner Rock
Label : E1 Music
Origin : United States
Rating : 7.5 / 10
Buy it now
I have been introduced to this group anticipating stoner rock, but the data on the disc sounds to me as sludge metal with stoner elements and some rabid leanings here and there towards full scale thrash warfare. This particular album is - kind of - a concept album, and the free encyclopedia, Wikipedia does a tremendous job addressing the circumstances why it is such. The following introductory quotation is taken from this Wikipedia page.
"De Vermis Mysteriis is the sixth album by metal band High on Fire. According to frontman Matt Pike The album’s title (translation: “The Mysteries of the Worm,”) is a nod to a fictional grimoire conceived by the late, great Psycho author Robert Bloch in 1935 and later incorporated into horror master H.P. Lovecraft’s renowned Cthulu Mythos. “It’s a concept record, a little bit,” Pike offers. “I got this idea about Jesus Christ and the Immaculate Conception: What if Jesus had a twin who died at birth to give Jesus his life? And then what if the twin became a time traveler right then? He lives his life only going forward until he finds this scroll from an ancient Chinese alchemist who derived a serum out of the black lotus—which is actually in Robert E. Howard’s ‘Conan’ stories—and then he starts traveling back in time. He can see the past through his ancestors’ eyes, but his enemies can kill him if they kill the ancestor that he’s seeing through at the time. Basically, he keeps waking up in other people’s bodies at bad times. It’s kinda like that old TV show Quantum Leap. Kurt actually pointed that out to me after I told him the idea. But whatever—time travel is a killer concept.”
Guys, let's talk about the music.
I'm going to tell you right off the bat that this delivery, to me, is kind of tolling to endure as a full spin, mainly due to what I think is a sear variant of a motivational dynamics the disc shows capacity/will to grasp unto and render. I think I kind of totally like sludge metal, but this sounds a little just too safe of a variant on said genre, and I miss the dangerous elements of it that slams me into a wall and puts at least two rows - if not more - of razor sharp teeth in my vision field as Lord Mantis or Yob does. When I hear High On Fire, I see an iiiiiiiiiiiiiiinfinite army of beer barrels, they are rolling towards me, a Beer Barrel Avalanche, and I'm not sure what is better, to run away or to submit to the magnificent sight and the further developments.
The contribution unfortunately has a vastly limited concept of how to deliver a chorus, which is this : leave everything in the musical backdrop untouched, and tell the "vocillist" to shriek out something that remotely resembles a sung melodic line for a second or two, as opposed to the usual-, "pitchless" pitch-domain the verse structures choose to organize themselves on. Every chorus "hook" on the disc is constructed in this niche, and, while one must admit that it works, its constant utilization becomes kind of a miserable tedium throughout the delivery. It's 52 minutes of the same thing, basically. BUT that thing is charismatic, mind us.
Sometimes this disc sits on a profoundly defined pathos wave - "King of Days" - and seeks to summon a blend of a ZZ Top slowtempo AND epic metal exquisitry Pharaoh, but the musicianship is too sloppy to accomplish the aim of the agenda. Don't believe me? Listen to the "guitar solo" starting from 4:09 in this song. The fuck is this, exactly? Equipment problems? I know what they want to do, they want to go Pharaoh, - they love to reveal elegant, differing melodic elements at both channels - but High On Fire fails miserably this time and refuses to admit.
"Fertile Green" is the first example of how the thrashy vibe decides to surface from time to time. The guitar solo once again is pretty sloppily defined let alone presented, and it sounds like that the "mere intentional intensity" it was played with was way more important AND a substitute to the actual notes produced by that unlucky poor guitar. This behavior is ubiquitous on the disc, and it is pretty terrible to hear, especially after hearing the absolutely top of the heat solo work on the latest Overkill album, for example. The guitar solos on this High On Fire album suck sweaty Godzilla ass, have no doubt about it.
I'm going to be honest with you, and tell you that this particular song marks a point from which the album starts to a drag a bit, in my opinion. Main reasons : this entire song - "Fertile Green", still - is based on a verse structure in which the fronter delivers the lyrics throughout a legitimate thrash metal bar, then chuggachuggachuggachugga basic-thrash style riffage for multiple bars. Then the band repeats the exact same procedure : the fronter once again addresses what is up in Indian style, - the vocal delivery herein is not nearly as possessed/disturbing as it is with the sludge band Indian though - then chuggachuggachuggaa. I'm aware that you can attempt to make look anything and everything look bad by being condescending to it, but this is not my intent here at all. I simply find said segment pretty uninspired and tedious.
It is of little help, quite the contrary, that the next song starts out with an interesting ambient-noise introduction, in which a guitar amp is used the non-orthodox way to give you an interesting sonic experience, but, to bitch around a little bit more, I think the idea is great, but not at the place it takes - well - place at. The intro splashes into traditional sludge with a '70s psychedelic rock vibe to it, and Jimmy Hendrix is a content man hearing it.
The disc has two tamer deliveries, too : "Samsara" is a friendly jam session with an interesting riff pattern dominating the composition with a bass that compliments it quite efficiently, but, once again, I'm a galaxy far far away from being blown away by the solo guitar work herein that "takes place" - and does nothing more than that - in the background. It isn't even properly shown, because the producer knew it is not worth showing properly. It is pretty hidden in the mix, and the only thing you know about it is that it is better that way. Boosh!
"Spiritual Rites" introduces a segment that not just borders-, but enters thrash metal fare, right after an introductory segment that blends a coarse "fantasy metal" vibe with the promise of thrash, that which is traded in an realized utterly around 1:45. From that point on, the song reminds me of a Lamb of God / Overkill hybrid.
"King of Days" - ballad stance with considerable pathos, sounds kind of funny and lazy in its anatomy with sludge guitars. The intended beauty is doubtless defiled proper, but not in a way that it makes it look good or interesting. It is just pretty "uhuh", in my opinion. They probably wanted to summon the intro section of The Who's timelessly lifting and "liftingly" timeless "Eminence Front", and end up with a drunk-ass instrumental Karaoke version of said vibe, in my opinion.
Titular delivery "De Vermis Mysteriis" once again reminds me in character to the Lord Mantis album I have linked the review of previously. The music sometimes does not seem- does not even seem to seek to progress, and finds great charisma and efficiency "simply by" coming to a stall position on which it performs various sonic movements of inventive intimidation. The disc packs this capacity without doubt, and also notice that the chorus structure in this particular song - the whole structure, for that matter - is super-reminiscent to that of the opening track.
These latter two notions suggest to me that the album has a fine time revealing its premiere aspirations, yet the relatively limited set of those yield a final fabric with a tad more tolling weight AND length to it than it seems beneficial and justifiable, in my opinion. In other words, the disc shows quite limited motivational dynamics and primer fixations, and, while it doubtless a rock solid accomplishment, it sounds to lack the "that little extra factor" which is the decaying satanic sick doom power charm of Pervertor, or the blue hollow undead insanity of Yob's Atma. High On Fire's De Vermis Mysteriis sounds to me as motor gang beer barrel sludge metal, nothing less, nothing more, but pretty OK at that.
Rating : 7.5 / 10
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