Matt Pike's transition from the diabolical sludge of '90s doom-metal overlords Sleep to the stoner-thrash hybrid of High on Fire has been one of the most underappreciated second acts in rock. Diehards know the score, and High on Fire have maintained the same indie-crossover attention that greeted split-7-inch cohorts like Mastodon and Baroness, but their dozen-plus-year discography has all the evidence you need of their power-trio mastery, whether or not you care about the fact that they cut an album with Steve Albini (2005's Death Is This Communion). This year felt like something of a career-spanning canonization of the band with E1's release of their characteristically maelstrom-force album De Vermis Mysteriis back in April and Southern Lord's chest-compressing remaster/reissue of their 2000 debut full-length, The Art of Self-Defense, a couple of months later. And damn if the new album doesn't sound every bit as devastating as the classic, though it helps that top-notch producer (and Converge guitarist) Kurt Ballou did justice to Des Kensel's lithely brutal drumming, Jeff Matz's leviathan-growl bass, and the interplay between Pike's voice and guitar — both of which are equally capable of technical grandiosity and concrete-rupturing impact.
Sat., Dec. 8, 8 p.m., 2012