Release Date: Apr 3, 2012
Record label: Entertainment One Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Stoner Metal
The “noughties” (or whatever lame pet name you want to give to the previous decade) saw sludge rise to the top of the bubbling cauldron that is extreme metal. Suddenly this everyman genre comprised of granite-filled Sabbath riffs merged with hardcore/crust punk, was on all the hipsters’ lips. This recognition of sludge metal in areas of the music community beyond the underground was down to a select number of emerging bands with similar musical influences and socioeconomic backgrounds, which were adept at stretching the seemingly limited genre into unexpected territories.
High on Fire's sixth album, De Vermis Mysteriis, or "The Mysteries of the Worm", has a complicated conceptual arc attached to it. The title references a fictional magic book created by the writer Robert Bloch and later employed by H.P. Lovecraft in a number of his stories. Then there are the songs themselves.
An indistinguishable five second drum fill by High on Fire drummer Des Kensel is the only time given to bolt down your chair and buckle yourself into the pummeling assault of Serums of Liao. As far as album openers go, it turns the ignition and punches the accelerator whether you’re prepared for it or not, giving you a smooth but fast ride that trails a whiff of brimstone. There’s no need to dwell on explanations or make a glamorous first impression – used as a vicious warning, the Oakland trio makes sure to please its constituents first without even making the attempt to indoctrinate the uninitiated.
While one would be hard-pressed to characterize any of the album's in High on Fire's devastating oeuvre as particularly "weak," there was certainly a mild sense of creative stasis hovering around the band's final efforts for Relapse; and it took a lengthy break and an unqualified return to form via 2010's Snakes for the Divine (their first release through eOne Entertainment) to really set things to right. Naturally, this achievement only heightened expectations for the San Francisco-based trio to deliver another scorcher with their next album, 2012's De Vermis Mysteriis, and "scorching" certainly appears to be the main directive for vocalist/guitarist Matt Pike, bassist Jeff Matz, and drummer Des Kensel, at first glance here. Simply put, the sonically overwhelming triple threat of "Serums of Liao," "Bloody Knuckles," and "Fertile Green" may just comprise the most violent and intense introduction to any High on Fire LP yet, and that's saying something, but it also might leave some listeners wondering whether this will be a one-dimensional bloodbath, rife with sheer wanton destruction, but not necessarily varied ideas.
Can we really blame the entrenched metal fan for getting ornery that blogs of a certain ilk offer a Liturgy thinkpiece and call it a year? Maybe salutary neglect is better than tertiary recognition, but sometimes you gotta feel for the kids who keep metal close to their heart. It’s why a yellow-belly indie-rock writer can muster the requisite, admittedly low-barrier chops to think hard about a High on Fire joint. You can hear the “metal for people who aren’t metal” sniggers a mile away.
Within the Cthulu Mythos, Mysteries of the Worm—in Latin, De Vermis Mysteriis—is a sinister tome of arcane knowledge. Perhaps the most dangerous within is a spell capable of summoning a star vampire from outer space. For California stoner metal legends High on Fire, it’s a psychedelic concept album about the time-traveling twin brother of Jesus Christ.
The sixth full-length released by Oakland, CA-based metal band High On Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis comes from a fictional book, a grimoire containing spells for summoning monsters that first appeared in the short story "The Shambler From The Stars," written by then-teenager Robert Bloch (who would go on to write Psycho). Bloch was the youngest member of H.P. Lovecraft's circle.
Once more they’ve turned sludge, slime and slurry into heavy metal gold. Alex Deller 2012 It always feels like a new album from High on Fire should be heralded by battle drums, natural cataclysms or a stirring of ancient deities. While many metal acts lose their edge as the years take their toll, it seems theirs has never been keener. Much of the responsibility for this rests on the shoulders of rock‘n'roll lifer Matt Pike, who, despite being a rather cheerful, unassuming fella sounds like he’s had to weather frost, fire and the grasping claws of giant scorpions on the way to the recording studio.
"Priestess of a timeless cup, the taker has looked through old eyes/To see why of religion's course, my brother's path goes so wide." Jesus Christ, therein lies the concept – literally. Unknowable demon twin or no, the Oakland trio's sixth battering ram rebounds from 2010's scattershot Snakes for the Divine, blowtorching the veneer off previous summit Death Is This Communion in a shitstorm of scabrous distortion. Bombardier attack atop a Lemmy croak ("Spiritual Rites") and psych-doom ("Madness of an Architect") – no problem, but Matt Pike's elegant lead on "Samsara" thins out the thickening sludge at the climax.