High on Fire

The Art of Self Defense

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Following the long, drawn-out demise of his former band, legendary doomsters Sleep (whose final album, Dopesmoker, was tied up in legal squabbles and went unreleased for years), guitarist Matt Pike finally unleashed years of pent-up song writing into a new stoner rock trio called High on Fire. On the band's first effort for Man's Ruin Records, 2000's The Art of Self Defense, Pike's instantly recognizable snarling guitar tone is the most obvious remnant from his Sleep days. But on outstanding tracks like "Baghdad" and "Blood From Zion," his previous group's snail-paced grind is replaced by driving riffs and thunderous drums that sound positively upbeat by comparison. The album also sees Pike tackling lead vocals for the first time (bassist Al Cisneros handled vocal duties in Sleep), and though his voice is buried somewhat low in the overall mix (lack of confidence perhaps?), this only places more emphasis on the true focus of High on Fire -- his bludgeoning guitar riffs. The heaviest of these serves as the backbone for the album's best track "Last," which simply must be heard to be believed. A promising new start for a genuine talent.

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