Music Reviews
Snakes For The Divine

High On Fire Snakes For The Divine

(E1 Music) Rating - 8/10

I’m convinced Matt Pike wants to blow out his throat.  With producer Greg Fidelman’s work on High On Fire’s fifth album, Snakes For The Divine, it sounds like Pike was aware that he’d have no choice but to try and let the angry compensate for what would prove to be a lack of loud. As a follow-up to Jack Endino’s treatment of 2007’s Death Is This Communion, Fidelman doesn’t necessarily drop the balll, (Lucky for him that he’s working with a truly accomplished, not to mention lethal, band), but he almost seems afraid of the material, too sheepish to let High On Fire truly burn.  It’s possible he felt he needed to put his own stamp on the album, sort of a producer’s signature or claim of co-ownership.  It’s also possible he thought cleaner was better.
When it comes to bands with big sound, replication of the sort of adrenalized aural annihilation that’s associated with bands like High On Fire is crucial.  More often, one would think that bands connected to such sound would be better off left to speak, (or yell as Pike does), for themselves without having to contend with studio filters and sterilizing mixers. A good example would be the criminality inflicted on MC5 for Back In The U.S.A. by Jon Landau: the man basically extracted the “Sonic” from Fred Smith.   
But, as much as I’m harping on the album’s production, it’s really of little concern next to what High On Fire creates, which is the sort unbridled brutality that makes you happy you found this band in the first place.
As part of the letherago-stoner act simply known as Sleep, Pike would craft a thickened witches’ brew of dreamy, almost lazy aggression.  If you’ve ever sat through the hour plus that makes up Sleep’s Dopesmoker, (one track), you’re aware of how adept Pike was at slowly negotiating a seemingly endless array of sonic serpentines while commanding attention from your (likely) less-than-sober carcass. 
Snakes For The Divine is fast and comes out swinging from its first few notes.  The title track is a nice appetizer, but Frost Hammer confirms the album’s worth in its allotted six minutes, nine seconds; a raspy, stompy torrent of a song that just trucks.  I don’t even know what the fuck a frost hammer is, but I’m certain it could destroy ANYTHING just from having heard about it.
The noir-esque Bastard Samurai slows the album down to an intensified crawl as Pike loses fingers:
“Count my fingers ten/Dressed to kill and think again/Count my fingers nine/Do the math your sacrifice/Son of a bitch should bleed awhile…”
His observations chill your bones as Pike transitions into a long agonizing scream.  The riffs intensify and Des Kensel fires off a rambunctious percussive outcry.  When Ghost Neck arrives, it’s back to battery. 
The Path provides somewhat of an introduction to Fire Flood and Plague, which proceeds to beat listeners senseless until How Dark We Pray produces unsettling, passionate and engrossing beat-heavy mire that basically drains any importance from the album’s closing track, Holy Flames of the Firespitter.  I don’t know what it is, but the little melody that Pike generates vocally is done in such a way that it’s almost moving.  As much as High On Fire pride themselves on their recorded brand of relentless brawn, How Dark We Pray, down to its fine solos and overall execution, is the album’s best moment. Fidelman, at the very least, knew how to handle it.