Tacoma's very own Jeff Matz (Zeke) joins Oakland California's High on Fire on bass for the band's fourth LP, Snakes for the Divine (E1 Entertainment). This fourth album, while staying true to the powerful stoner rock that has defined HOF's auditory onslaught since their conception in 1998, falls short of my expectations. While guitarist and lead singer Matt Pike continues to deliver riffs suitable for the devil himself, his vocals come through clearer on this album than ever before, much to the detriment of Snakes for the Divine.
This higher vocal definition may be due in part to the softening drummer Des Kensel. Des, where are the tribal beats that you craft better than anyone in the business? Where have your deeper-than-the-ocean toms gone? While the drums on previous HOF albums have knocked me on my ass, on Snakes for the Divine (with the exception of track 7) Kensel leaves me feeling deflated and a bit cheated.
Please don't get me wrong; I am not saying that this is a terrible album by normal standards. It's just that over the past 12 years High on Fire has been the standard in American hardcore metal and this latest release simply does not reach the height of the bar that the band has set. If the best rock that you know is Incubus, Disturbed, or System of a Down then you need to get to your nearest record store and buy the defining first three High on Fire albums. If the band comes anywhere near Tacoma or Seattle to promote this album, consider it your duty as a headbanger to go see the show. Just please, don't let your sole judgment of the band rest upon Snakes for the Divine.