High on Fire | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Guitarist Matt Pike brought a new and necessary sound into the world with his 90s band, Sleep--together with Earth, they established the audacious, black-hole-dense baseline against which all that's slow, stoned, and heavy has been charted ever since. So maybe it's understandable that some expressed disappointment when his second big project, High on Fire, turned out to be in many ways such a traditional metal outfit. I don't share that feeling, not even now that Pike's primordial vision has subsumed new bassist Joe Preston and his experimental-sludge-metal pedigree (Thrones, Melvins). Pike looks back beyond such innovation to a time when metal's trunk had only just started to fork into identifiable branches, and High on Fire's new Blessed Black Wings (Relapse), recorded here last year with Steve Albini, represents the kind of progress that's achieved only through the devoted study and mastery of a classic form; it's a tide of roaring lava that melts any subgenre prefix you might try to attach to it. Beneath the guitar's shambling riffs and high blasphemous piping, Preston anchors the mix halfway down to China and Des Kensel's drum parts scrabble and swarm like Lovecraftian rats in the walls. Simply devastating. Planes Mistaken for Stars, Kylesa, and Sweet Cobra open. a 9 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $12, 18+.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Robin Laananen.

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