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In the seven or so years since singer-guitarist Matt Pike decided to apply the monumental chthonic heaviness of his previous trio, Sleep, to music with a more human metabolic rate, High on Fire has matured into possibly the greatest unhyphenated metal band in America. It's been more than two years since Blessed Black Wings, and they're touring now to soften us up for Death Is This Communion, due in September on Relapse. Not that you'll need your brain tenderized by their live show to be able to appreciate it: it's a fucking monster, and new bassist Jeff Matz only rattles around a little in the huge boots Joe Preston left for him to fill. There are some almost pretty bits, like the Jimmy Page orientalism of "Khanrad's Wall," but by and large the album just refines the band's usual medieval war-gaming sound--wickedly nimble and rhythmically ferocious, it's like a bloodthirsty armored horseman riding at full gallop past the sluggish behemoths of doom and stoner rock. Don Caballero and Indian open. High on Fire also headlines Wicker Park Fest on Sunday; see separate Treatment item for details. a 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $15, 18+. --Monica Kendrick

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