All the warts, spit, steam, and bare-chested power of High On Fire in full rage blare out from first note to last. This is lo-fi terror and hi-fi heavy metal. Three musicians meld into a single assault unit. They conduct each 65-minute campaign with wonder weapon instruments and war crime songs. The shows have no frills, no between song patter, no second guitarist stashed behind a PA stack to fill out the sound. Spitting Fire is grimy, raw meat rock n’ roll. There’s no reason to get cute with the genre tags; it’s heavy metal thunder, it’s the roar of ten thousand guitars groovin’ real loud, its simple unrepentant rock n’ roll exceptionalism played with the intensity and rumble of a space shuttle launch.
Live albums serve several purposes. They are space fillers while bands slog it out on the tour circuit. They are also spackle to cover the holes left by the empty months between studio releases. High On Fire has little need for any this right now. The band released one of the best albums of 2012, De Vermis Mysteriis.> They sneaked out a sonically updated version of their great debut The Art of Self Defense. They toured like an old R&B cavalcade show, when Christmas was the only guaranteed day off. Momentum, great reviews, rehab, and nary a bus accident helped them cast off some of the stoner band label and join the biker-gang of elite metal gentlemen.
Out of nowhere, they drop a two-volume, one hour and 22 minute long testament to why they are among the finest metal club live bands in the world. Spitting Fire was a rumor, a mystery and eventually a total surprise. Vol. 1 opens on a Jeff Matz drum volley into "Serums of Liao." Mayhem ensues.
"Frosthammer" follows. Live show fast, it is a precise rendition of the studio version yet musically more relaxed as if to give hellfire extra space to lick upward between notes. "10,000 Years," "Devilution" and "Fertile Green" get the same treatment in the seven song set. Vol. 1 is most of the hits and the one to own if the iTunes gift card only has 10 bucks on it.
Vol. 2 is more of a showcase for High On Fire. "Rumors of War," "Fury Whip," "Hung Drawn and Quartered" and set-ender "Snakes for the Divine" are included among the seven heavy metal hand-grenades that make up the album. Again direct, uncompromising, and paced like a dash through enemy crossfire, the band exerts its electric power-trio potency. If these shows are pieced out in videos, Vimeo may shoot sparks and then go dark.
High On Fire's Spitting Fire Live Vols. 1 & 2 are essential chronicles of Matt Pike, Des Kensel and Jeff Matz working together as a six-armed club-wrecking metal monster.
(released June 18, 2013 on eOne Music)