12 November 2015
It was my friend Lee Nite who first played me an album by High On Fire. I knew and loved Sleep’s work, but had kind of considered that HOF’s sound was a little too fast for my doom/stoner rock ears. He slipped on their first album and said something like “this is fucking brutal and psychedelic”. And he was right (as with most of the things he played me); my musical world atlas shifted a bit in its orbit and suddenly High On Fire made sense and I had to get the album. Then we saw them at the Camden Underworld and I was once again worshipping at the altar of Matt Pike.So fast forward a few years and my friend is no longer with us and I’m making my way to The Scala to see HOF play live again for the first time in about four years or more. It feels strange in a way, but I’m hoping that me being there at the show will help transmit the music to wherever my friend may be. Bask as they enter the stage. There already seems to be an odd vibe in the audience, but I put that down to my expectations for the night. Bask are technically wonderful; their music leaps from old-school heavy metal through to almost a bluesy sound with a slab of doom added on for good measure. When they rip in to a big riff you can almost feel the floor quake under the powerful avalanche of sound. Drums and bass rumble in perfect unison and the lead guitar has plenty of soul in it to carry off subtle melodies as the bombast crashes around it. They are a precision machine that forges ahead to make a glorious blast of sound. just how vicious and malevolent High On Fire can be live and just how much they have a brutal take no prisoners attitude on stage. Sabbath rifferey in its hash-smoked haze, but a cry to storm the gates.
A guy standing next to me in the audience is giving the bouncers a nod every time someone starts to get a bit carried away. The bouncers then pile into the audience and drag this person off, normally bashing into people (myself included) while doing so. A girl behind me asks if I am all right as a slight bit of moshing breaks out near me and bouncers pile in, nearly knocking me flying. I feel like saying that I have been to gigs that were a hundred times more violent than this over the many years, but just nod yes to her. In a strange way I find this guy giving the nod rather distracting from what is happening on stage, which is High On Fire giving one of their most powerful performances, the music hitting the audience in a wave like a relentless tide of riffs breaking over our skulls.
Maybe the scene is changing though, and venues have to get a bit tougher, but it’s certainly something I know that would have annoyed Lee greatly. But at the end of the day, High On Fire were magnificent and I hope that some of their music was sent out into the aether for him to enjoy.
-Words: Gary Parsons-
-Pictures: Dave Pettit-