High On Fire: NQ Live, Manchester – live review
High On Fire, Jumping Jack & Lizzard
NQ Live, Manchester UK
3rd February 2013
Stoner Metal band High on Fire have recently been touring the UK. Louder Than War took in their Manchester date.
Having had to cancel last summer’s tour schedule, due to Matt Pike’s stopover in an alcohol rehabilitation programme, High On Fire have returned to tour the UK for the first time in a while. Joining them on road are two bands, both from a country not exactly renowned for producing good quality rock bands – France.
First up are Lizzard, an interesting little 3-piece alternative act embarking on tour in support of their new album Out Of Reach (Klonosphere Records, 2012). These guys are not dissimilar in style to prog rock legends Tool, with odd time signatures and variations on the quiet-loud, loud-quiet song dynamic. That is; with melodic, delay-laced atmospheric sections, interspersed with some heavy and powerful riffs with muscular vocals. Which, all in all, translates to an honest and enjoyable set of decent modern rock tunes.
Lizzard’s cohesive approach is, however, not matched by countrymen Jumping Jack. Who, it must be said, make a good start to their set with (the bizarrely titled) She Made No Resist (from Trucks and Bones, Bandcamp, 2012). This song is made up of a number of groove driven riffs, derivative of Corrosion Of Conformity or perhaps Clutch. But herein lies the problem; These guys aren’t from the American deep south. And tellingly, they change styles with every song, from Metallica thrash to Maidenesque NWOBHM, some of which provoke a salute of the dreaded ‘metal horns’ from the crowd. So, unfortunately Jumping Jack are a little clichéd and definitely without their own identity.
So, with the support having served their purpose, the audience are expectant of an underground legend. Matt Pike cut his teeth with seminal 90’s stoner rock band Sleep, who, having secured a major label deal for their third album, allegedly spent a six figure advance on vintage gear and drugs. Then proceeded to record one (70 minute) song, which the label refused to release. And then broke up! Although Sleep have since reformed, Pike has occupied most of his time with High On Fire who formed in 1998 and have recorded six albums and toured often.
High On Fire aren’t a band for the faint hearted. Their sound is brutally heavy and painfully loud. This reviewer was made to regret forgetting his earplugs and is sure to suffer a resurgence of his tinnitus. The muddy sound of NQ Live only adds to the combination of unrelenting drums, chest pounding bass and Pike’s growling Lemmy-like vocal delivery. But the main attraction is undoubtedly Pike’s guitar; his masterfully constructed riffs and blistering trademark solos. High On Fire play a set spanning from their first to their most recent albums. They pen two main types of songs; slightly slower groove driven tracks like 10000 Days (from The Art Of Self Defence, Mans Ruin Records, 2000) and faster metal numbers like Rumours Of War (from Death Is This Communion, Relapse Records, 2007. The audience here tonight all know what to expect and these songs successfully whip up a flurry of mosh pits, crowd surfing and flying pints of ale. Highlights include Madness Of An Architect (from De Vermis Mysteriis, Relapse Records, 2012) and the title track from Snakes of the Devine (Relapse Records, 2010). To sum up High On Fire as an updated version of Motorhead is maybe too simplistic as there are various hardcore punk and metal influences in the mix. But the old Motorhead manta certain applies, “Everything louder than everything else”.
All words by Mike Botherton. More of Mike’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here.