High on Fire – Luminiferous

Oakland Sludge Metal trio High on Fire have been around since the end of the 90s and some of their records, like their 2002 release Surrounded by Thieves, are regarded as essential albums in Sludge Metal. Now they’ve released their seventh record under the title Luminiferous.

I went into this album with mixed feelings and unsure of what I should expect, since I found their previous record, De Vermis Mysteriis, to be a great album with diverse, on-point songwriting and a really thick, heavy production whereas the first singles we heard off of Luminiferious seemed to overstay their welcome a bit while not leaving as much of an impression as the songs on some of their previous full-lengths.

The very first song on Luminiferous is one of those singles that were released to promote the album and while I didn’t like this song all that much initially it has definitely grown on me a bit.

It stars off really energetic and reminiscent of some of the songs on De Vermis Mysteriis. The chorus on this song is even as catchy as some of the choruses on Death is this Communion with some pummeling bass drums pushing against the duality of the guitar melody and Matt’s rough screams, that now carry a bit more of his voice in certain parts.

However, the problems this album has are already apparent in this song. Considering that this track goes way past the five minute mark, it feels like they’re just not really going anywhere with it and them diving back into it for a guitar solo after the brief break before the last third of the song feels kind of forced.

There are a few more ambitious tracks on this record though, with most of them being found in the second half, like The Cave, a slow piece with some psychedelic effects on the vocals and the intro guitars, that also brings in some acoustic guitars during the verses.

Right after that we have the title track, which is definitely the most intense song on this album along with Slave the Hive. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the band putting Slave the Hive on this album since it has been out for a few years already, but it’s an incredibly intense and powerful song, so it’s definitely a plus for this album as far as songwriting goes.

Production-wise this album feels a bit less compact and upfront than De Vermiis Mysteriis which takes away from its heaviness and intensity, but the bass is fuzzy, the guitars sound meaty and the drums have enough punch to not fall behind, it’s just not as overwhelmingly heavy as their previous album.

Another change on this album is Matt Pike’s vocal delivery, which, as I already mentioned, now carries a bit more of his voice in a few parts allowing him to bring more melody into his singing. His harsh vocals seem to have suffered from that though, since they sound a bit more like a gurgle now, especially in his long screams and sections with vocal layers.

Overall, Luminiferous is a decent record but most of the songs just go on way too long. Considering that the band usually establishes most of what you’re going to hear throughout the song in the first minute, they just don’t expand on those concepts enough. 

I initially hoped for this record to be a fusion between the catchiness of Death is this Communion and the pummeling intensity of De Vermis Mysteriis and while it does feel like that’s what the band was going for, the songs ended up being somewhere in between, never really reaching either and ending up kind of unremarkable.

Luminiferous is not a bad album by a long shot but in the end it’s kind of underwhelming.

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