High On Fire w/ Kvelertak and Windhand @ El Rey Theatre

The ever loud and mighty High on Fire rolled into Los Angeles on a brisk Thursday night. The almost packed house in unison got their heads banging when shirtless Matt Pike and company took the stage. The clouds of smoke from the crowd wafted through the El Rey as High On Fire pummeled the audience with their blaring wall of distortion. The set list spanned their albums The Art of Self Defense to their most recent De Vermis Mysteriis. In particular, Cometh Down Hessian (off Blessed Black Wings) got the crowd in frenzy as the floor opened up and the pit took shape. Matt Pike with all his towering presence managed to smile and grin at the crowd and seemed to really be having a great time on stage. Each song rang heavy and the other members of the band were really dialed in on. There was no banter just shouting of the next song title and a flood of feedback in between songs helping to guide the next one.. All in all, anyone in the audience could tell, High On Fire was firing on all cylinders that evening.

Also on the tour was Kvelertak, the much buzzed about Norwegian rock band. Their most recent album “Meir” (produced by Converges Kurl Ballou) has been getting lots of acclaim as well as their energetic live show. Coming to the stage to a roar of an audience, the singer draped in a taxidermy owl atop of his head, took over the crowd and worked them into frenzy. The 3-guitar attack helped to propel the bands melodic sensibilities. There was no lull in the momentum of Kvelertak’s set, with a very interesting use of jazz hands.  The band had all the chops to steal the show away from High on Fire, which they did.

Opening the show was Virginia’s Windhand. Riding high on their 2013 album “Soma,” the bands doom laden sound fit very well for the soundtrack to the evening but did not have the chops to open for either band. The way their sound was mixed was very bass heavy and the vocals so low it seemed that the singer was just mouthing the words.  The roar of their distortion over powered every ounce of the El Rey. Not to take away from the band, who put out a great album, lack any real presence on stage and their sound just doesn’t translate well live. If I hadn’t heard the band before the evening, I would’ve been even more disappointed.

Having seen High on Fire multiple times over the years, the show itself was one of their best. Matt Pike really seemed to be back in the groove of playing and with a reenergized sense of self. There is one thing that tends to happen at a mostly “doom” genre show, and that is every song tends to bleed into the other.


Review by: Brian Lacy

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