Are Those Guitar Riffs, Or Are Ye Just Excited To Slay Me?
High on Fire's alchemy of punk and metal yearns for Darker Ages.

"If I have a problem, I'll write a song about it and make it sound like a big battle scene," explains High on Fire vocalist-guitarist Matt Pike. Thankfully for his fans, Pike seems to have plenty of problems. He purges with an epic amalgam of gnarled riffs and bombastic rhythms, as witnessed on the Bay Area trio's second album, Surrounded by Thieves.

While many metal bands hint at an interest in ancient folklore, High on Fire actually sounds like a snarling mythological behemoth, angrily awakened from its slumber. The band's songs twist and thrash from riff to riff, while Pike's effects-laden growl spits words like "Icy caverns, holds man traveler/ Ancient relic reveals secrets/ Transform human beyond mortal."

If the band's frenzied riffing is sometimes hard for the listener to follow, Pike says just writing HoF songs can be a brainteaser. While the band's songs are fast-paced and constantly shifting, its heft seems to hint at early speedcore and punk rock.

"I was going back to some of my influences on this album, which are Corrosion of Conformity, Black Flag and Slayer," Pike says of Surrounded.

From the moment of the band's inception, HoF has been tagged as another slow, murky "stoner rock" group, perhaps due to Pike's involvement with legendary, mind-numbing Oakland sludge-metal outfit Sleep, whose acclaimed final album, 1999's Jerusalem, consisted of one skull-thwacking and lugubrious 40-minute-plus song chronicling how marijuana was brought to Earth by aliens.

"Sleep was a drone band, very pot-oriented," says Pike. "This band is more free and open."

Following Sleep's final snooze, Pike opted to scream and play guitar in his own band. "It's a new job for me," Pike says. "It takes a lot of practice to be able to sing and play at the same time. It's sometimes embarrassing, because someone always catches me screaming in my room."

Will HoF ever mellow out? "Oh, no," Pike insists. "It's just going to get heavier and heavier. That's the type of band that we are." Dave Clifford

High on Fire plays Saturday, July 20, at Satyricon, 125 NW 6th Ave., 243-2380. Lost Goat, Boulder and Witch Mountain also appear. 9 pm. Cover.



The recent July 4 holiday reminded Hiss & Vinegar how great America is...but how much better could it be, were it not for the idiots in charge? Item: The Senate is considering changes to the federal "crack-house law" aimed at making it easier to prosecute club owners, promoters and landlords for hosting events at which drugs are used. The Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund sez the proposed changes are aimed squarely at raves; given that the G-Men tried to railroad a few New Orleans rave promoters with the law last year, that's a safe assumption. Item due: In early June, il Congresso passed a resolution extending congratulations to the City of Detroit for its role in American music history, including "jazz, rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll and techno." Congress, make up your friggin' mind!


In what must surely be the most hilarious "controversy" of the month, sectors of the British music press are propagating the rumor that a song by the fab Bay Area punk band The Pattern is actually a stealth Oasis release. "Happy Sarong," a track on the Adeline Records comp Every Dog Has Its Day, is Exhibit A in the dubious case. Both the Pats and lager-numbed Gallagher Bros. strongly deny any switcheroo. However, Pattern singer (and Lookout! Records proprietor) Chris Applegren does have a suspicious habit of proclaiming his love for the has-been pop stars in public. "I love Oasis!" Applegren told Vice magazine last year, well before the current confusion. Perhaps the ever-excitable British press just assumes that anybody professing to like Oasis so much these days could only be Oasis themselves in disguise. Understandable.


This week we give thanks we're not corporate accountants: Caught in a numerical slip-up, we could be criminally (if hypocritically) prosecuted by henchmen of sinister El Dubya. So it is with genuine shame and humble pleas for mercy that we apologize for having listed morFest 2002 at Horning's Hideout as occurring on Saturday, July 13, instead of its actual date of Friday, July 12. But mark your calendars: morFest will continue later this summer, with Melvin Seals' Melting Pot and other bands bringing hot lixx to the stix on Friday, Aug. 9 (yes, really). IDIOTS! WE ARE TOTAL IDIOTS! But then, many of you suspected that already.


The game of rotating booking agents at Medicine Hat continues, as the most recent pair of charges des affaires resigned their commissions last week. Apparently shows scheduled for July are on, but bands and fans alike should call 282-4083 to confirm, y'know, things...Looks like last week's pair of Starve shows were the last for the sharp-lookin' mod band, at least for awhile. Membership changes are sidelining the group for the unforeseeable...Surprise! Soul Brains, a.k.a. notoriously deranged hardcore pioneers Bad Brains, canceled a Portland appearance--again! Wonder which of the aging Rastas is off his meds this time...Jeff Baxter, who fingers the Hammond (gross!) for Goodfoot Lounge mainstays Triclops Organ Trio, is off to study gorillas in the Congo soon. The group plans to soldier on...Polly want a cracker? Seventies-themed downtown booty base Polly Esther's (424 SW 4th Ave.) bowed out of the ass-grabbing arms race, to be replaced by Rockafella's, a hip-hop (alert the authorities!) club...Meanwhile, the former Old Town digs of Balzer's, the hip-hop haven which expired last spring after a law-troubled life, will soon become the Voodoo Lounge, reportedly a "New Orleans-themed" club. Righto.

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