High On Fire – The Art of Self-Defense – Review

High On Fire

The Art of Self-Defense (Tee Pee)
by Brian Varney

One of the few true gems to emerge from Man’s Ruin’s splatter-gun approach to releasing records, The Art of Self-Defense is finally back in print, thanks to the folks over at Tee Pee. And even if you have the original version, this reissue has the added bonus of swanky new cover art (a demonic-looking bird swoopin’ down on your ass) and two excellent bonus tracks, one of ’em a Celtic Frost cover.

If you’re in the dark about these guys, get ready for the aural equivalent of an hour-long ass kicking. These eight tracks are not so much songs as ageless slabs of molten granite eroded by the elements into a stone hammer being swung at your head. This is metal at its most tribal; stomping and heavy as fuck without being played especially fast. The band’s attack is unholy, utterly relentless, and loud as the falling of the heavens. A friend of mine videotaped a live performance and, at times, the band was so loud, the sheer volume knocked the camera out of focus.

Produced by Billy Anderson (sorta the stoner/doom Phil Spector), the recording is loud and nasty, all sonic mud and the sick-sounding buzz of Matt Pike’s guitar, a Biblical instrument of destruction played through about 300 Green amps. Sounds a bit gut-churning (and it is), but it fits the jagged edges and rough texture being laid down by this power trio just perfectly. Besides, once you get used to the deafening ringing in your ears and the violent lurching of your innards, the symphonic spasms of your system reacting to these overwhelming foreign bodies gets to be almost pleasurable. Kinda like being high. So check this out and get ready for the May 28 release of the band’s new album on Relapse, at which time the world will end.
(PO Box 20307 New York, NY 10009)