High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis
Record Label: E1 Music
Release Date: April 3, 2012
In 1935 "The Shambler From The Stars", a short story by author Robert Bloch, was published for the first time. In this story a character inadvertently summons an extradimensional horror upon reading from an ancient tome entitled "De Vermis Mysteriis" (Mysteries Of The Worm). This same grimoire was also later incorporated into the Cthulhu Mythos by horror mastermind H.P. Lovecraft. In this respect, it's rather fitting that stoner metal legends High On Fire have titled their sixth studio album after this fictional book of magic. Sounding something like the musical equivalent of both some ancient horror summoned through the dimensions and the lumbering mass of Cthulhu itself, the album is an unrelenting force of heavy metal might and fury. Colossal riffs meld with drums that thunder like distant a storm while frontman and metal icon Matt Pike growls, howls, and bellows his way through ten monumental tracks that reiterate High On Fire's status as one of metal's finest and most consistent acts.
Granted there's not a whole lot of new ground being broken here but as the axiom goes, if it's not broke don't fix it. Such is the case with High On Fire and De Vermis Mysteriis. The band remains true to their tried and true approach to metal. There are however some unexpected moments. Instrumental track "Samsara" is a hypnotic soundscape of fuzzed out space-rock bass guitar that highlights flourishes of greased lightning fretwork with a special appearance by album producer Kurt Ballou of Converge fame. The track acts as an effective interlude between the slow-burning "Madness of an Architect" and the frenetic "Spiritual Rites". But the album's true high point is the seven minute "King of Days". The longest song on the record, it's a massive, towering affair; one of mammoth guitar and a snaking vocal hook that slithers in and out of the space between the crash of the drums and the grimy avalanche of guitar.
Easily one of the finest songs the band has ever penned, "King of Days" is an instant classic; one that sees the band at their best, both creatively and musically. Also worthy of mention is the American Civil War themed closing track "Warhorn". The song's verses are a stark contrast to the band's typical sound; devoid of any guitar and featuring only bass and Pike's whiskey-soaked vocals before exploding into a distortion-drenched chorus that summons the band's collective might like the aforementioned character summoning some great beast from beyond. One listen to De Vermis Mysteriis and it's apparent why the band is so beloved and respected by so many. This is a band fully invested in their art. Never half-assing anything and delivering finely-tuned metal strength and aggression time and time again, High On Fire are an American metal institution. One that I hope will continue for many years to come.