Scenario: At birth, Jesus actually comes into the world with a twin, who is basically stillborn. The catch is (and it’s really a pretty big one) that the deceased twin can now, in a sense, travel through time and see things through the eyes of his ancestors. He gulps down (thanks to a dude named Liao) a bit of the ol’ mystical black lotus concoction and…bam!! He’s sucked back ever so swiftly, in a tripped-out kind of way, to the fabled days long before his birth-death, seeing things from great granddad‘s perspective and so on. The trick is, he has to get into that realm, and get the hell out before that specific ancestor dies. If not, well, he dies (again) right with them. While in this ethereal state, he can also gradually learn more about just what, exactly, went wrong in the mind and teachings of his bro, and warn him of the utter shit storm that Christianity brings upon the world down the road. It’s as if to say, “Hey, man…you may have meant well in all of your initial teachings, but humans can be a flat-out ignorant lot, and through the years, their scrambled brains are gonna mutate your words like the toxic waste did to that bad guy, Emil, in the first Robocop flick. Believe me, J.C., that shit didn’t end well at all.”
If I’m not mistaken, ladies and germs, that’s pretty much where Matt Pike’s head was at when it comes to the head-smasher of a concept for the latest High on Fire onslaught. Though now, word is that you’ll be hard-pressed to get much more information on it from him, as he wishes to leave it mostly to interpretation. Combined with additional references to Edgar Allen Poe, Lovecraft, and Sylvia Plath, among others, the storyline will surely get your gears turning. The ten tunes found on De Vermis Mysteriis (eOne Music) are no different. Recorded and mixed at GodCity by Kurt Ballou, it is a fine example of a situation where band and producer can not only coexist in a civil manner, but deliver the goods in the process.
Perhaps the best-sounding of the band’s last three efforts, De Vermis Mysteriis (translation: “the mysteries of the worm”) arguably more consistent than its glossy predecessor, Snakes for the Divine, possesses more of a straightforward punch than Death is this Communion and most definitely harkens back to the decidedly grittier, more sludge-oriented atmosphere of the band’s earlier efforts. This record is filled to the brim with pummeling majesty, the gallop-into-war pacing of “Bloody Knuckles” and “Fertile Green” being perhaps the earliest example. Meanwhile, “Madness of an Architect” is easily the highlight on this beast, taking on an almost New Orleans sludge style lumbering, until eventually kicking into a swirling groove that invokes a sort of updated Holy Mountain kind of mood to the finish, Pike’s graveled snarl baring its teeth all the while. “King of Days” bears a noticeable Sabbath nod, and solo work reminiscent of Pike’s past work in Sleep, showcasing Des Kensel’s sledgehammer drumming prowess with crushing, ominous clarity.
All in all, High on Fire’s De Vermis Mysteriis is one hell of a contender for album of the year. It is proof positive that not only is Pike’s monster a creation that will not die (similar to that Jesus twin guy mentioned earlier), it just keeps gaining more razor-sharp teeth and talons with each attack. Now, if only we here on this plane of existence could finally see some positive results of that chat Jesus had with his dead, serum-swilling twin, this record would be even that much more monumental.