Live Review: High On Fire 20th Feb 2016 @ Max Watts

Crossing over between two of the biggest names in contemporary metal, Matt Pike is one of the most influential mainstays in the genre, both for his work in stoner/doom heavyweights Sleep as well as the frontrunner for his own band of misfits as part of High On Fire.

Hailing from Oakland, the three piece play their own unique brand of sludge and doom, with a heavy refocus on the likes of their speed and tempo, giving them a thrash metal edge to their droning wall of sound. A sound, which has successfully greeted them with seven commercially lauded studio albums, with their latest; Luminiferous gaining much traction from Pitchfork, Metal Injection and the like.

Kicking off the night were the Melbourners in Big Bread and their immovable wall of noise with deafening guitars and a sound stage packed with a droning wall of amplifiers. Channeling their heaviest sound they could muster, they put forth a venue wide havoc of noise leaving many punters eardrums in their wake.

Bassist and frontman Theo Umbrividies channeled the late Lemmy in his act, pulling no punches when it came to his yells and screams to hype the audience up for the night ahead.

“This song is about when you walk down the street and someone looks at you because you have those big, yellow, teeth,” he musters with the entirety of his vocal capacity, and the proceeds to scream “Big. Yellow. Teeth!” during the aforementioned song.

Following on to keep the night’s energy flowing was another homegrown Melbourne four-piece by the name of YLVA. Diving right in, with blistering chuggy guitar riffs and crashing snares and cymbals, YLVA could be described as a heavier, thrashier tinged post metal, with some powerviolence subtleties thrown in for good measure.

Screaming along with multiple vocalists added some variety into the mix, which resonated very well with the audience, and between this and their wall of stoic, unwavering racket, it’s hard not to draw parallel between them and something along the lines of genre-titans; Neurosis.

[include_post id=”413007″] The band’s efforts on stage cemented them as the real deal, as the foursome ploughed through their set almost hypnotically so – the individual cogs spinning as part of a well-oiled machine. Moreover, it’s always refreshing to see a band’s raw work ethic apparent on stage, which was also the case here.

The testimonials just keep coming however, as according to a post on their facebook page, their performance tonight was only their second show they have ever played as a group, which is genuinely quite surprising to witness. It can sometimes take years for a group of musicians sound as tight as YLVA did tonight, and if they continue on their upward climb of solid musicianship and raw dedication, these boys have a very bright looking future ahead of them.

Batpiss kept the ball rolling, and by this point in the night punters couldn’t be blamed for wanting to dig out their ears a little, but luckily the trio from Collingwood kept things interesting, erring a little more on the punk end of the spectrum with long droning walls of noise as they incorporated lengthy sections of sludge and doom into the element.

Host to a very enthusiastic crowd, the three-piece hammered their way through their forty five-minute set, their punk and hardcore influenced vocals helped to cleave through their droning feedback, doused in heavy; almost palpable bass chords all the while seamlessly transitioning between fast and slow riffs.

Anxiously waiting in the lower floor unanimously chanting for the band, punters were greeted with a roar of applause to the trio in High On Fire, visibly showing their appreciation for their welcome as they introduced themselves. “Thanks for being here tonight Melbourne. We’re High On Fire.” But, just as they were ready to tear into the opening of ‘The Black Plot’ it became increasingly aware that there were technical issues surrounding Pike’s guitar. Frantically wailing into an apparently mute instrument, Pike raised his arms in desperation, as a sea of fans raised their eyebrows in unison.

“We’ll start this over in a minute, sorry guys.” Pike apologized, as the stagehand fiddled with a web of amplifiers cords, supposedly remedying the issue.

“Let’s try that again – we’re High On Fire!” Pike screamed, as he tore into his opening riff to a wall of rejuvenated, screaming fans. The three-piece worked very cohesively as a whole unit, with bassist Jeff Matz keeping the band’s energy alive on stage, while Des Kensel reinforced their unwavering wall of noise from behind his kit.

The group cleaved through each and every monster riff with the utmost gusto, Pike’s lyrics being yelled back at him by the unrelenting crowd, all moving as a single organism, as his voice boomed across the entire venue.

Regrettably, following on from the eponymous ‘Luminiferous’, Pike yet again experienced further technical issues, which would continue onward to plague the rest of the night.

After a momentary interstitial in which Matz and Kensel helped to void the silence the band jumped right back into ‘Dark side Of The Compass’ not wanting to waste any more of the punters time than they already had. Thankfully the crowd more than understood, cheering and chanting alongside the band until the night’s end.

The issues that haunted Pike’s setup persisted, making the closing of ‘Slave The Hive’ end rather abruptly, with the band exiting stage before sliding expectedly back mere moments later.

Thankfully, the group ended with a big finish as they encored with fan favourite ‘Snakes For The Divine’, Pike’s infectious riff echoing out through the unrelenting crowd. Finishing on a wave of applause, the band again thanked the crowd for their appreciation and patience for their technical faults they experienced. It’s hard to fault the band for these shortcomings – sometimes issues crop up and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it, other than be grateful it didn’t hinder the gig any further.