High On Fire – Luminiferous
The prophets ov batshit crazy have warned us of the coming of a reptilian race. But are they hostile just because they resemble lizards? And how in the hell are we supposed to be the good guys?
If there is one word that defines this album it is violence. Luminiferous is a much more violent and thundering album than any of HoF‘s preceding efforts. As time has passed and play count increased, the feeling has only grown stronger. At times the band rages like Motörhead-on-speed, which is no small feat, and at times it revels like a crazed bear getting its face eaten by a frenzied cuttlefish.
Yet even together these aren’t the whole truth about the diversity of this album. Yes, Des Kensel is emulating Furiosa: Fury Road on drums and Jeff Matz rumbles, never letting go of the riffs. But there are calmer moments, moments of near-serenity on this battlefield. Like the counting of the dead and seeing the faces of your brothers among them, these are really the album’s heaviest moments. “The Falconist” offers passages of semi-clean singing from Messieur Pike and instantly rises above the crowd. Similarly, the late album masterpiece “The Cave” tells tales of Matt Pike’s struggle with alcohol to more somber music. Emotionally, it might just be the band’s single heaviest moment to date.
Pike may be many things, but never short of riffs. Of this, Luminiferous offers strong proof. No matter where you lay your gaze, vast amounts heavy riff-monoliths (riffoliths?) lay. From the violence-supreme of “The Black Plot” to the aforementioned “The Cave’s” slower trudge, reminiscent of Pike’s past endeavors in other outfits, this album’s riffwork slays.
Kurt Ballou’s production once again provides the icing on the cake. The drums remain powerful and very clear throughout without ever overtaking the soundscape leaving the crunch-and-guts filled bass audible at all times. Luminiferous has a violent approach to songwriting but the riffs have a stoner-like feel, which is something that the band hasn’t to this extent employed in some time; I have a feeling this is in no small part due to Ballou’s production.
But like all albums must be, this too is flawed. The songs, aforementioned somber highlights excluded, blur together. In a way Luminiferous may be HoF’s most consistent album, but here it stands for similar riffwork meeting similar structures on an overtly familiar template. Normally I am not one to complain about a band making similar albums or about length, but putting these together, Luminiferous feels even longer than it is, bordering on extensive. In all, Luminiferous is still a strong album, even from a band that has produced no disappointments, and easily takes its place among the top-half of HoF’s work.