HIGH ON FIRE, I Exist, Lo! Manning Bar, Sydney. 20-02-2016.


Words El Jefe.
Photos Rod Hunt.

© Rod Hunt 2016.“Pike is the only man alive who actually looks less seedy when he grows a porn-star moustache” – Luke Glover, local punter.

It was a humid Saturday night in Sydney, and I was feeling sticky as fuck due to the fact that a mere 15 minutes before I arrived, I’d finished playing an early show with my own band, and the sweat hadn’t even had time to dry. I walked in and was immediately accosted (well, hugged) by a mate who proclaimed with a grin “I’m off my face”! But I already knew that!

My apologies to the dudes from Lo! as I only caught the last 4-5 songs of their set. I’d been held up en route to the show when a Stingray in front of me killed a pedestrian. Or perhaps it was due to a shitty PA that delayed the start of our set. What I did see was some bruising and energetic sludgy doom, with some interesting guitar work, which I found vaguely reminiscent of The Jesus Lizard at times.

Next on the bill were I Exist. While they were tight and competent, I found that after a few songs, everything started to sound the same. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I couldn’t find much to hold my interest outside of the occasional rhythmic flourish.

The curtains opened and it was time for the main event. High On Fire; that monstrous metal behemoth, their wall of amps, insane volume levels and dense sonic mayhem. This outfit is as furiously unstoppable as a speeding freight train. The endless supply of monster riffs, bellowed vocals akin to a Berserker charging into battle and more power through the wheel than the Interceptor. I’ve been a fan of these dudes for years, but this is the first time I’ve been able to catch this screaming juggernaut live. They definitely didn’t disappoint me either.

‘The Black Plot’ from their new LP Luminiferous launched the set, with Matt Pike wielding his Les Paul like a cudgel and bludgeoning the hordes into submission, while Des Kensel plays drums like two jackhammers fucking. I couldn’t imagine HOF achieving the monolithic wall of sound without him. Long-time bassist Jeff Matz completes the sound, not surprisingly with a huge, heavily distorted bass assault blasting out from his SVT / Marshall bass rig.

‘Rumours of War’ and ‘Carcosa’ followed on quickly, and the crazed energy was cranked up a few notches. A crushing version of ‘Death Is This Communion’, slower and more punishing than the studio version came next just as I decided to make my way closer to the front; I wanted to feel the full force of those cranked amps. By this time, the band was in full flight.

‘Luminiferous’ is up next, followed by the groovefest that is ‘The Falconist’. ‘Cometh Down Hessian’ and ‘The Darkside Of The Compass’ slug the crowd with more blow-torch tinged mayhem before Matz powers into the vicious distorto-rumble bass intro to ‘10,000 Years’, a track from their debut LP The Art Of Self Defense and also my fave HOF record! Pity they didn’t include ‘Master Of Fists’ in the set as well!

“Here’s ya fucken encore!” roared Pike. No bullshit, no ego-driven walk-off. Just jumping straight in with both fists. ‘Fertile Green’ with its bestial war-drum intro and ‘Snakes For The Divine’ both played with brain damaging intensity, and then it was all over. On the whole, they were tight as fuck, but raw and totally relentless in their attitude. It was an absolute killer of a live show that left me pondering whether or not I should jump the next flight to Brisbane for the following nights gig.

Lemmy may have left the building, but as long as Pike and his evil band of cohorts continue to make heavy music, metal is safe.