High On Fire - The Art of Self Defense [Reissue]
Damn, reissues can really start to make you feel old! Since Californian rockers High On Fire released their millennium debut album a heck of a lot about this world has changed. Back then a myriad of CDs lined our shelves, idly awaiting their spines to be scanned whereas now our thumbs quickly do the work. I swear we're all well on the way to having iPod RSI. Thankfully though, what hasn't been altered in the slightest is the satisfaction of hearing this collection of fuzz wrapped songs led by the devastatingly good 'Baghdad' bursting through headphones, almost as if for the first time.The Art of Self Defense, it's a pleasure to be reacquainted.
The 6 songs that made up the original flesh and bones of the album feel like they've been through a barrage of intense workouts under the strict eye of a personal instructor. They’re wider and taller with no better example than the excellent '10,000 Years'. Seriously, there's more beef on these tracks than that of an Olympic Weightlifter. The record reeks of pure sweat, tears and steroids. Credit for the enhanced muscle must go to Brad Boatright (Ashes Rise) whose digital mastery has given this album a new lease of life and cemented its place in the list of great rock records.
High On Fire's inception in 1998 has been described by Matt Pike (vocals/guitar) as a way of "putting his life back together" after the demise of previous band Sleep. This new effort was a noticeable departure from the laidback stoner psychedelics of Sleep. High On Fire live up to their name with a more ferocious approach to riffage leading many critics to label them as metal. Now that they're 6 studio albums deep into a healthy career it feels like an appropriate time to reflect upon the early foundations set by The Art of Self Defense.
Southern Lord Recordings have been good to us with this reissue and included the original 6 tracks, 2 brilliant 7" tracks, 'Steel Shoe' and a cover of Celtic Frosts' 'The Usurper' and the original 3-track demo. Although not all the bonus tracks are essential listening they certainly help to paint a picture of the early days of this band. There is a reason why this album is still gaining attention. It's a must have for serious fans, and highly recommended to anyone else.