The Best Albums of 2015, #14

band0114. High on Fire, Luminiferous (eOne)

It felt like an eternity had passed between albums by Matt Pike and the mighty High on Fire. Indeed a lot had happened since the release of 2013’s De Vermis Mysteriis, most importantly that Pike had admitted himself into rehab to deal with his alcoholism. It was one of those cases where of course you’re wishing Pike would take all the time he needs, but at the same time, three years between High on Fire albums is painful because the metal world is a better place when that trio is chugging along. This year Pike and his band returned leaner – literally and figuratively – and a hell of a lot meaner on their seventh album, and from the opening salvos of “The Black Plot” onward, the band feels re-energized. They’ve never been lacking in intensity, but that rampaging volatility, so masterfully harnessed by producer Kurt Ballou, is offset by some of Pike’s catchiest riffs in a very long time. High on Fire are never, ever lacking in bite, but not since their work with Steve Albini a decade ago had I heard the band sound as vicious as they do here. The music sears, towers, soars. High on Fire are at their best when Pike’s classic metal inclinations are allowed to rise to the surface, and whether it’s the simple swagger of “Carcosa”, his wonderful, nonsensical hesher poetry (“Accursed beings, galactic schemes, explaining overdue / The twin suns locked in cadence, vast magnetic pull”) or his authoritative, shredding solos, the man is firing on all cylinders here. Of note, however, is the song “The Cave”, which is both a musical and lyrical departure. More meditative in tone and theme, Pike addresses his rehabilitation with great eloquence (“Work your art and do it well / Took the road to living hell / Past is then and now is now / Escaped the reaper with our vow”) and if it isn’t a statement of a redemption, at the very least it’s a message that the work to being a better person is well underway. Talking about “feelings” isn’t something old-school metal dudes do well, but as unusual a turn as it is here, it gives the album a heart underneath all the ferocity. When all’s said and done, Luminiferous is the finest High on Fire record since Blessed Black Wings. (Spotify) (YouTube)