The Lyrics Corner: High On Fire’s “The Sunless Years”

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Chemtrails, new world order, and Luminiferous.

High On Fire is a staple of the extreme metal community. For years, Matt Pike and crew have been pummeling posers with mighty riffs, never missing a beat. I cannot think of any HoF album, or song really, that does not absolutely crush me from beginning to end. This extends to their exceptional 2015 album, Luminiferous. Pike has come under fire recently for some of the content that has found its way into the lyrics on Luminiferous. Conspiracy theories from Illuminati reptilian cabals to new world order to chemtrails show up in a number of songs on the album. Pike’s lyrical interest in conspiracies rattled some members of our community, seemingly calling into question Pike’s world view.

High-On-Fire_Luminiferous_Cover

“But Old Man Doom,” you say, “if the conspiracy theories are just themes in the lyrics, then what’s the big deal?  They’re just song ideas, right?” Nope. In a number of press interviews for Luminiferous touring cycle, Pike states very explicitly each time that he is a true believer in the conspiracies that are presented in the lyrics — that he is a conspiracy “factist [sic],” not a theorist. In most of these interviews, Pike goes on to explain in detail his belief that there are Reptilian hybrids bent on controlling humanity, saying definitively that his lyrics and his music are an effort to “tell the New World Order to fuck off.”

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The metal blogosphere’s reaction.

I can see why certain listeners might be put off by this: writing creatively about some pretty off-the-wall type shit is one thing, but believing in it, basing one’s world view on it, is very different. Very dangerous, some might even say. I was discussing this topic with a fellow toileteer about a year ago when Pike’s conspiracy “facts” started to filter through the metal blogosphere. This particular commenter expressed his concern about Pike’s beliefs getting out of control and turning from an interest in the esoteric to a politically-charged and hateful variety of speech (e.g. Mustaine or Nugent). I find this fear a little too exaggerated, potentially blown way out of proportion. It is not as if he is one album press release short of threatening the president’s life or arming himself against government “death squads.” Accusing Pike of engaging in dangerous fringe politics based on conspiracy lyrics from the dark corners of the internet is tantamount to calling any number of death metal or goregrind bands serial killers because they like torture porn horror films a little too much.

The conspiracy “facts” that Pike has integrated into his art are a little questionable, but it is still art. And telling the new world order to fuck off is a message that I think most listeners can get behind, whether they stand with Pike in their own beliefs or if they just want to slam their heads against the concrete and feel good about it. So, whether you choose to don your tin foil hat or your battle vest (or both), the fact remains: Pike’s lyrical world view on Luminiferous is not dangerous. With this in mind, I want to explore one of the more lyrically noteworthy selections from Luminiferous, the savage and conspiratorial “The Sunless Years.”

He’s been taking the acid1

And hooked into the light

Pondering radio fillings2

And arcane satellites

Vampires take what they want of him

Visions to the nine

Keen, clean and wasting what may have been

Some people say something

Some people feel something

Black holes and time travel stratospheres

Visitors watching our binds3

Wake up, there’s gonna be hell to pay

Someone please tell them

This is our fucking lives3

Chemtrails inhaled by infants

Overpopulate time

Killers made this political

Pleiadieans hint at our minds4

He shows insecure confidence5

He’s out of his mind

Sitting in black meditation

Someone please answer him

Someone please answer

He’s been taking the acid

He’s been taking the acid

He’s been taking the acid

And arcane satellites

1 It is tough to tell from the opening line who the subject and speaker are. One might assume that the he is Pike, but then the choice of third person is odd: why not just use first person for speaking directly from the personal? If this is Pike’s conspiracy “factist” manifesto, then would it not be appropriate for Pike to speak from his own experience? What I see here is that he could just be narrativizing the lyrics instead — telling a story with a character separate from himself, much like concept that guided the lyrical content of De Vermis Mysteriis. This would support the notion that Pike is really just attempting to tell a story here rather than use the lyrics as a platform.

high-on-fire-de-vermis-mysteriis

Pike is no stranger to the weird tale.

2 This line comes from a personal experience Pike claims to have had when he was younger (explained in the video interview above). He claims to have tuned into radio frequencies and voices discussing top secret information as a child through a couple of metal fillings in his mouth. Whether this is accurate or not is certainly up for debate, as Pike even notes in the interview, but there have been other documented cases of people claiming to have the same experience around the world.  And while these cases certainly have visibility on the internet, none of them have ever been proven or debunked.  This relates in part to the unreliability of our subject/speaker that is discussed later on.

Relating back to previous annotation (1), the story-telling interpretation can be complicated a bit by these particular lines: the lyrics oscillate between third and second person (our). This disrupts the former notion that “The Sunless Years” is just a narrative of a character on an acid trip. These lines reference “our binds” and “our fucking lives” immediately bringing the listener into the world of the lyrics via second person, which can be interpreted as a call-to-action on Pike’s behalf. The lyrics in this case are neither purely invented narrative nor Pike’s own personal account of enlightenment, but rather these two elements come together in a manner that seems to obfuscate Pike’s true message here. Is this Pike’s anthemic call-to-action or is it a cautionary tale about a man taking acid? This remains unclear, but still gives a sense that Pike is playing with listener perceptions via the changing points of view.

4 Pleiadieans is both a reference to the small cluster of stars that form the eye of the Taurus constellation and the supposed multi-dimensional beings that inhabit the region who can telepathically communicate with humans over vast distances of space. According to pleiadians.net, run by a group of dedicated believers, the Pleiadiean realm is “the next step in human evolution.” Details are sketchy (as is usually the case with these kind of conspiracy “facts”), but it seems as though many theorists tend to believe that the Pleiadiean race begot humanity and that it our destiny to rejoin them 500 light years away in the Pleiadians cluster.

Pl3

Pike is definitely referencing the telepathic aspect of this conspiracy in the lyrics, but the context is unexpected. “The Sunless Years” is a negative song; none of the conspiracy lyrics therein are celebrated. The mention of Pleiadiean aliens seems to be negative as well (unwanted mind control), despite the consensus among the fringe communities surrounding these entities being relatively positive. An interpretation of this paranoiac context may well be Pike expressing a universal skepticism about anything and everything existing outside the bounds of his perception of nature. This is understandable given that the vast majority of references made prior to this line are terrifying (dark visitors, space vampires, forced chemical inhalation). Mind control is just one more thing that has set him over the edge, no matter if it is in an effort to enslave or enlighten.

5 From the first line to the last line, the reliability of the speaker/subject is in question. Showing “insecure confidence” is quite the oxymoron, but it definitely reveals some level of truth as to the speaker/subject’s emotional and mental state. He is simultaneously pissed off at the new world order manipulation of society, yet he is unsure of how he fits into the scheme. Is he the whistleblower? Is he the freedom fighter? Is he the crazy one? Is he just having a bad trip? The next line, “He’s out of his mind,” would seem to clarify that the speaker/subject is indeed tripping, but taking another look at the context, it actually raises more questions than it answers: Is he out of his mind on a trip? Is he being manipulated out of his mind? Can this line be taken as literal or figurative?

All of this coincides with the song’s thematic, repeated phrase: “He’s been taking the acid.” Immediately, and at the end, our speaker-subject admits to altering his perception of reality with drugs even before the conspiracies come to life. However, I would go as far to claim that Pike’s unreliable ambiguity here is deliberate. It could be said that the character taking acid is both changing his perceptions, making him a hallucinating paranoiac, and opening his mind to the true reality (i.e. reptilian new world orders a la the sunglasses in They Live). The figurative role of the drug is to leave certain doors open to interpretation whilst showing listeners the capital “T” Truth beyond the veil of their mundane existences. In this way, Pike is both calling attention to an issue that he feels is important, yet giving listeners a narrative that they can interpret for themselves at the same time. It is at once great lyricism and somewhat mystifying.

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Apologies for the long-winded nature of this lyrical analysis (literary analysis is my job). I hope that some of it makes sense. But what I really hope for readers to take away from this is the notion that art does not have to be interpreted monolithically. Art is wielded by excellent artists to convey truths and make you question the world around you. Some listeners certainly do not agree with Pike’s truths and have even been offended by them, but this is okay. Just because you may not agree that the world is in imminent danger of a hostile reptilian takeover, like Pike, does not mean that this belief should threaten you or your own world view. In the end, this fact remains: Pike is a great, if somewhat esoteric, lyricist, and the lyrics on “The Sunless Years,” as well as other savage cuts from Luminiferous, are not dangerous so much as they are perplexing.

  • Dubbbz

    Personally, I like that Pike talks about weird stuff in lyrics. It adds some nice variety to the usual subject matter, and as far as I can tell, he’s never advocated for anything unethical or inhumane. I have somewhat of a morbid fascination with conspiracy theories/theorists. They tend to be generally harmless, but there is real concern there that a) the theorist is actually mentally ill (schizophrenia can cause paranoid delusions that sound wildly similar to a lot of conspiracy theories) and b) some folks who believe in these conspiracies can refuse help they need and are therefore a harm to themselves. I think Pike is fine, though, and if he wants to keep singing about the Annunnaki but takes care of himself, rad.

    • To clarify, your fascination is about the people who have the theories? Or about the theories themselves?

      • Dubbbz

        Both! I think some of the theorists are just as fascinating as the theories they espouse.

        • I assumed it was both, since that is what I thought I read (lol).

          Interesting.

    • Regardless of whether he actually believes the stuff, the lyrics are creative. On the other side of the spectrum is Chris Barnes, a man who believes every mass shooting is a false flag by the government and is only capable of growling about schlocky violence or weed.

      • JWEG

        If I ever found out I had even just one relative who bought the Crisis Actor conspiracy, I’d change my name and leave the fucking continent.

        Probably not in that order, though.

      • MachoMadness5000

        Amerika the Brutal

    • Old Man Doom

      Absolutely. And I think has been taking care of himself recently (being sober, exercising). That’s part of the reason why I’m, in part convinced that he’s just weaving an interesting narrative about a character who is a paranoiac conspiracist, maybe someone who he used to be.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Dubbbz dropping the knowledge.

  • Eliza
  • I have but one question:

    https://i.imgflip.com/169p99.jpg

  • Joaquin Stick

    This seems like a case where it is easy separate the artist from the art (even if the lyrics are true to him). When the person becomes an asshole is when it is irreconcilable for me. Don’t get me started on how much I hate conspiracy nerds. I agree with the space alien that some are fun to listen to and all that, but most of them hold their theories a little to close to heart and it gets on my nerves (the condescension is never far away).

    • Dubbbz

      Am I the space alien?

      • Joaquin Stick

        Indeed!

        • That’s offensive. He’s clearly a robot.

          • Joaquin Stick

            Also, isn’t the phrase “space alien” redundant? I mean, unless it’s unclear if you’re talking about illegal border crossings or little green men, and how often could that mix up arise? Either way, I am an idiot.

          • Waynecro

            More important, all the cool pseudoscientists know that aliens aren’t from other planets but from other dimensions and/or times. I mean, aliens’ traveling millions of light years to butt probe humans is preposterous; aliens’ managing to move freely between dimensions or travel back in time to butt probe humans, however, makes perfect sense.

          • Dubbbz

            Or from the center of our hollow planet.

          • Old Man Doom

            Hollow Earth Theory >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

          • Waynecro

            If the UN would finally step up and do something about those damned Deros, we could probably get a booming inner-earth-tourism industry going.

          • Was peeping your Bandcamp. Didn’t know you were from SLO. My buddy lived there. Been there twice. Fun!

          • Old Man Doom

            Oh, nice! We’ve got a pretty small, but solid, sludge metal scene here. Love it.

          • Fact. I saw a documentary that pretty much confirmed this. I think it was called Event Horizon.

          • (image embed:)

        • Dubbbz

          I’m starting to lose track of myself after being told I’m a robot, a space alien, and a former President.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Yeah but Matt Pike brings THE RIFFS!!!!! What do those guys have? Two things; jack and shit.

  • Dubbbz

    Also, folks who complain about Pike’s lyrics need to stop drinking the fluoride and set up some vinegar traps to dissolve the chemtrails.

    • Joaquin Stick

      How’d you forget about the tinfoil hats?

      • Dubbbz

        Those shield us from the HAARP vibrations.

        • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

          Those pesky retired persons!

    • JWEG
    • CyberneticOrganism
      • Dubbbz

        I knew I could count on you.

      • Waynecro

        “See these clouds? They weren’t here earlier.” DUN DUN DUNNNNNN!

        • CyberneticOrganism

          How else would clouds appear? Weather? That’s exactly what a Nobama sheeple person like yourself WOULD think.

          • Dubbbz

            BE CAREFUL. That kind of talk will get you sent straight to the FEMA camp.

          • Waynecro

            The guys sprays some vinegar around, and all the clouds blow away–er, I mean, dissipate. I can’t argue with such solid proof!

        • Waynecro

          I think I was in a band with that guy one time.

          • Plz tell me your name was Tigers in Teh Sky

          • Waynecro

            That would have been too poetic for us, man. We were a rough-and-tumble group of drunk bros playing Pantera rip-offs with shitty guitar solos. But, damnit, we had heart–and doofy lyrics. I used to suggest goofy-ass lyrics as a joke, but the guitarist loved the shit out of them and bought me beer (I was 16 at the time).

          • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight

            Lyrics don’t get any doofier and “I’ll beat your fucking ass if you touch my Brock Lesner blow up doll, bro!” than Poontera.

          • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight

            You were in Big And Rich?!

        • Hans Müller

          “You see that scar?”
          “Your feet stink.”

          One of these people is bringin the facts.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    I’m all for people exploring conspiracy theories and alternative thinking myself, provided they aren’t prejudicial or harmful. Which takes out a lot of them unfortunately, but I don’t think all are bad by any means, and I think the ones that are reveal themselves pretty quickly (I spend a lot of time on Conspiracy Theorists Say The Darndest Things). Interesting article man!

    • Dubbbz

      Oh, that’s the UK page, right? That guy’s Wednesday quizzes are fun.

      I start to get annoyed when they start making it about the Jews/Zionists. Clearly that’s just buying into racial prejudice.

      • You would say that, you zionist shill
        USER HAS BEEN BANNED

        • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight

          It’s official: Axl Rosenberg has now officially highjacked Joe’s account. ^^^^^^^

      • Old Man Doom

        Well, the guy I talked to about Pike’s lyrics before made the connection to Zionism, saying,” He’s only one step away from being an anti-Zionist, antisemitic hatemonger if he believes in all that other shit.” It was a total fallacy and ultimately prompted me to write the article.

        • To be fair to that guy, a lot of conspiracy theories involve antisemitism, particularly those of the prominent Infowars network.

          • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight

            That (along with Trump getting this far) says a lot about conservatives when Rush Limbaugh isn’t paranoid and racist enough for them. Infowars is the coke and Oxycontin fueled mutant love child of Stormfront, Limbaugh and Breitbart all rolled into one.

        • Akerskronks ov Steele

          That’s not just jumping to conclusions that’s buying a transatlantic airline flight and the taking a train across the chunnel and the another train further on into a roast of Eastern Europe wherein no your only means of reaching the destination is via walking or maybe Cart and horseing to conclusions.

      • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

        The one that’s a subset of Fundies Say The Darndest Things.

  • Waynecro

    Great analysis, man. Thanks! Pleiadieans are a buncha wussy space hippies. Getting in with the bloodthirsty reptilians is where it’s at. If we get on their good side now, they may not eat us and our babies later. I mean, they probably will, but it would be sweet if they didn’t.

    • Old Man Doom

      Thank you, sir. I personally have a vision of the reptilians unearthing Darwin’s corpse from his tomb and propping him up as an idol to worship during their hostile takeover of the planet.

      • Dubbbz

        I don’t think Jim Morrison has approved of that venture, yet.

        • Old Man Doom

          This is a fair point

    • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight
      • Waynecro

        “Or is that TV show like real life?”
        — Guy from Ancient Aliens

  • Abradolf Lincler

    Now I know I’m just an idiot redneck but some of this stuff is pretty cool. Picard would be proud

  • Abradolf Lincler

    matt pikes lyrics = ball earth garbage
    https://youtu.be/WLE-ocDoXrs

    • Hans Müller

      Those video snippets cobbled together at the end there really up this guy’s credibility.

      • Abradolf Lincler

        NASA put those videos on the ends of the video like they put the ice walls around the edge of the earth! to keep the sheeple ignant!

  • Personally, I’m not terribly worried.
    I don’t think Pike’s worldview will catch on, and conspiracy theory lyrics written from a position of curiosity to explore a topic in the end don’t differ much from lyrics written by a conspiracy theorist who believes the fantasy. And as W says, there’s evidence to suggest that conspiracy theorists have paranoid schizophrenia. So even *if* by whatever long shot Pike’s subject matter lures someone in, that person would theoretically abandon it when confronted with facts.

    • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight

      And massive drug habits to go with the schizophrenia. First time I ever heard Alex Jones’ rants and conspiracy theories, first thought that came to mind was “Cocaine is indeed a hell of a drug!”. I’ve known many cokeheads back home, and he definitely reminds me of some of the more unhinged ones I’ve known.

  • Also whIle we’re on the subject, my favorite conspiracy theory is that Obama is actually the pharaoh Akhenaten reincarnated or cloned from ancient times. El oh el.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Ha ha ha oh man, that’s good

    • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight

      I’m guessing this is one of Ben Carson’s Soma-fueled delusions about ancient times?

  • Hans Müller

    Hadn’t heard High on Fire before, this song is cool. Powerful vocals, and I enjoy the lyrics regardless of their intent.

    I would consider (3) to be quotes from “him”, which would make the narrative more consistent. Who knows though.

    • Old Man Doom

      That’s a good point, definitely gives more consistency. Check out the rest of the album; it’s one of their best IMO.

      • Hans Müller

        Will do.
        Any idea if the references to time travel are bits from another conspiracy theory? “Overpopulate time” seems to allude to some specific concept.

  • Fine work here OMD. A thoroughly engaging read despite my indifference to the Pike Persona.

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    *claps enthusiastically*

    This was superb, Old Man Doom! I have always liked Pike’s lyrical style and your analysis was awesome.

  • This is a wonderful dissection, Old Man Doom. Thanks for sharing your research, loved how you analyzed how the lyrics were constructed too.

    Also, this record is pretty cool. I dug it.