Words Callum Doig.
Photos Sally Townsend Photography.
High On Fire have always been one of those incredible bands that everyone’s heard of, yet hardly anyone realises the strength that lies in their music. For nearly two decades, they’ve thrived on belting out the heaviest and sludgiest tunes metal could ever birth with one of the most dedicated fan bases in the scene. With the release of their highly acclaimed seventh LP Luminiferous, the trio returned to Australia for an all new headline tour in support of the new record. Joining them on their Melbourne show at Max Watts were locals Big Bread, YLVA and Batpiss.
The thirty to forty-five minute wait that you have to sit through for gigs are a pain when you set foot into the venue. Only ten minutes though after doors, Big Bread took the spotlight as the opener. There weren’t many patrons at the time they came on and performed, but there were a handful of those that were appreciative of what Big Bread gave to the audience. Generally, there wasn’t much they had to offer in their presence, but they made up for that with a great sound and show onstage.
While chatting with my mates next to me on the barrier, we were disrupted by an immediate and surprising blast from YLVA, who were the second band of the night. No dramatic or simple introductions, no heads up, no nothing. They just erupted out of nowhere. Their half hour set consisted of three songs and absolutely no hesitation in whipping out some substantially doomy riffs. I kept looking back at all of the people around me to see if I wasn’t the only one that was completely blown away. Even my mates had a reaction that was equal to that of finding buried treasure. There are a handful of doom bands out there that try a bit too hard on pulling out a great number of interesting progressions and riffs, but YLVA let all of that flow very naturally. But, to realise that YLVA was fronted by Mike Deslandes from one of my favourite local bands High Tension, and that it was only their second show… to say I was impressed would be more than an understatement.
Crazy to think that it had already been three years since I first saw Batpiss at Max Watts supporting Helmet in 2013. The stoner punk trio were given a slightly longer timeslot as opposed to the other groups, but personally, a half hour gig for them would’ve worked a bit better. There wasn’t as much of a reaction from the crowd as they performed, despite the fact that the room was just about at full capacity at the time. Though I’ve enjoyed them the last few times I saw them as a support act, this time didn’t exactly phase me as much as I anticipated.
Metalheads all around the word don’t know the meaning behind extreme live quality until they’ve witnessed a High On Fire show. Being the second time seeing riff lord Matt Pike co., I had some high expectations to come from them again after the amazing 75 minute set they executed in 2014. Most of their set entailed a majority of Luminiferous tracks including ‘Carcosa’, ‘The Falconist’ and ‘Slave the Hive’, while also providing a number of High On Fire classics such as ‘10,000 Years’, ‘Cometh Down Hessian’, though there were a few minor mishaps that involved Pike’s rig the minute they opened with ‘The Black Plot’. Even halfway through the set, there was another crack on Pike’s rig. But, bassist Jeff Matz decided to buy some time by playing a small bass jam to keep the fans amused as they fixed Pike’s amps.
As soon as High On Fire left the stage to build up the hype for their encore, the drumbeat from ‘Fertile Green’ started playing over until they returned to play the big thrash track for real, followed by the main encore playing ‘Snakes For the Divine’. Overall, their set was as amazing as I would expect from a High On Fire concert. Even with a few minor hiccups onstage, they showed off a really tight performance.
All the supports pulled through with flying colours, and High On Fire blew it up as usual. YLVA were personally, the most favourite amongst the opening acts. Especially for their second ever show, that was one hell of a performance. Don’t fret if you missed High On Fire this year. They’re definite on returning, for Australia holds some of the most intimate and loving fans. But next time they announce their return for another killer tour, make sure you get ahold of tickets the minute they go on sale.