It’s the kind of stuff that J.R.R. Tolkien would be into. It’s like the apocalyptic imagery of Yeats’s “The Second Coming” or the beautiful confusion of T.S. Eliot. Literary snoots might balk at comparing the apocalyptic imagery of poets like these with High on Fire — but when you really read Matt Pike’s lyrics, they’re pretty damn poetic.
The three-man juggernaut of the underground metal world, fronted by stoner metal’s big brother Matt Pike, awakens fantastical beasts with their brand of oily, thick-sludge-meets-Motorhead metal. On their latest, Snakes for the Divine, Pike growls epic tales of “frost clan” battles, glacial messiahs and seas of endless night. It’s a thinking person’s metal — stuff that is over-the-top loud, but that has speculative, literary-influenced messages behind it all.
Pike says Snakes came from his obsession with conspiracy theories. This album, he says, was spun from the idea that Adam and Eve were not really the first humans on Earth — but the first humans to accept reptilian DNA, which has now infiltrated most of human life. That walking among us is a lizard-like species that controls the media, the government — all of it.
“I do have a hunch that aliens could be amongst us and have been for a long time,” he says. “It’s an interesting thought — and I thought that theory was a pretty metal thing to write about.”
But when Pike isn’t writing about wacky theories like that, he says he is naturally inclined to write about his own experiences more like they’re the Epic of Gilgamesh than, say, Metallica’s “Seek & Destroy.”
“A lot of it is not so fantastic or metaphorical … a lot of it is about personal things that happened to me and around me in my life,” he says.
The band’s driving sound and Pike’s throaty, smoker’s-cough vocals have propelled High on Fire toward the fame they have today — even converting, of all people, indie-folk icon John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats. (Weird.) They stop in Spokane this week, bringing an onslaught with them.
If seeing High on Fire in the tiny Blvd space isn’t enough, here are three more reasons to stop by the show.
If you’ve heard Jucifer, you know that two people can make a helluva lot of noise together — and Black Cobra only further proves that. Their latest record, Chronomega, is punch in the face from the get-go, wasting no time before slamming out fast and sludgy riffs and raspy howls into the listener’s chest. As Black Cobra, Rafa Martinez and Jason Landrian mash up the best things about metal — the foggy heaviness of sludge, the driving speed of thrash and a shroud of thick, drone-like vocals (a little Melvins, a little Jesu). Having made the dreaded Boise-Seattle-Portland skip-hop-jump, the San Francisco duo has skipped Spokane a few times — so be sure to make enough fuss at this show to get them to come back again.
The last time Bison stopped here was for a show at the Cretin Hop back in October — and their tour blog quips that they only came here to scrap their van. Now the band is signed to Metal Blade Records, home of big-deal metal bands like Cannibal Corpse and Black Dahlia Murder. Blending hardcore and thrash, the Vancouver, B.C., band has a penchant — like High on Fire — for the fantastical. They have a three-part series of songs revolving around the mythical Wendigo, a cannibal spirit of the Algonquin people.
Perhaps the most approachable of the bands touring with High on Fire, Priestess rides the wave started by stoner rock bands like Fu Manchu — creating a ’70s-tinged, guitar-geek sound that leans heavily on Black Sabbath, Dinosaur Jr and Queens of the Stone Age. Where Bison, Black Cobra and High on Fire wrap their sound in a thick gauze of guitars and drums, Priestess backs off a little — actually singing and slowing down, occasionally, to a slow melodic cruise. Hardly the heaviest on the bill, but definitely worth hearing.
High on Fire, Black Cobra, Bison BC and Priestess play the Blvd on Saturday, May 1, at 8 pm. Tickets: $10-$13. 21 . Visit brownpapertickets.com or call 455-7826.