Heavy Artillery

Posted January 17, 2008 in Music

There are the bands that are easily recognized sonically—they’ve got that signature musical flair that you can grasp in a “Name That Tune”-esque “I-can-do-it-in-two-notes” madness. And then there are the other groups are easily recognized for their outrageous appearances, cutesy haircuts, or preciously expensive rags.

Oakland metal trio High On Fire are quickly recognized by the sheer bulk of their equipment. After walking out of a HOF gig, the particular visual memories that end up embedded in the synapses of one’s grey matter are the towering stacks of massive speaker cabinets—formerly in a bright green hue, mind you. There’s also the fact that you probably only saw about a twenty-ninth of drummer Des Kensel due to his massive rack tom, aimed front and center, sharply angled towards the audience (and thusly offering a closer resemblance to the cannons retired from a Civil War-era heavy artillery depot than a modern percussive instrument that’s likely found at your local Guitar Center).

But at least you’ll know what you’re in for the moment High On Fire strikes the first chord. The group—which also features legendary bassist Jeff Matz, formerly of Seattle’s Zeke—delivers on all ends with its pummeling roster of metallic recklessness. And its four-week national headlining tour with A Life Once Lost and Saviours (which starts this week, hitting Pomona’s Glass House on Saturday night) promises that those on the outskirts of major metropolitan markets will be served their rightful doses.

“It’s all non-mecca towns,” said vocalist/guitar Matt Pike from his home a few days before the tour launched, while nursing a nasty migraine. “It’s kind of like, you have to hit all the places that have suburbs and don’t get many shows all the time. Which is cool, because it makes the kids happy that are living in the middle of nowhere instead of a big city. It’s like a breath of fresh air, ‘cause every night you’re not all stressed out ‘cause you have some huge ass show. You’re like, I can just play the set, walk through it and not stress out too bad.”

Support acts Saviours and A Life Once Lost are both near and dear to Pike—in fact, he was roommates with members of Saviours (also Oakland-based). And he had previously shared touring bills with A Life Once Lost. 

“They’re pretty fun,” he says, “I like those guys a lot. I drank a lot of beer with them and stuff like that. Plus, I know I can be on tour with that band, ‘cause I’ve already toured with them. And it makes it easier when you don’t have to remember names and you already did the memorizing a couple years ago.”

The current tour’s in promotion of the band’s latest release, Death Is This Communion, which hit shelves in the fall to wide critical acclaim. In fact, the act is one of the underground metal scene’s forerunners, which itself has been a community blossoming into the “next big thing” status after decades off the radar. So, what’s the frontman of this torch-bearing trio think of his subgenre’s recent surge in popularity?

“Well, I dig on it and stuff, but still it’s like, hip-hop’s in, metal’s out and it has been for a long time,” he laughs. “But I don’t play hip-hop, so I’m kind of fucked, aren’t I?”

High On Fire, Saviours, A Life Once Lost at the Glass House, 200 West Second Street, Pomona, (909) 865-3802, Saturday, January 19. Doors 7PM, tickets $12 (advance), $15 night of show



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