It feels like so long since High On Fire released an album that I had to go back and check their discography to make sure I didn’t miss any releases since 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis. With the exception of a single and a two-part live album, things have been fairly quiet on the High On Fire front. But, if there’s one thing Luminiferous is determined to get across, it’s that High On Fire is not a band that’s meant to stay quiet.
The sludge metal genre is one often associated with musical slowness, ragged vocals, and an overall worship for all things heavy. On Luminiferous, they’ve nailed that last part down just as well as their previous LPs. As for speed, that’s the one thing that separates High On Fire apart from their peers. The midway point between thrash and sludge has always been one of the band’s strong points, and it’s refreshing to hear they haven’t lost that sense at all when the album kicks off with ‘The Black Plot’ and ‘Carcosa,’ two tracks that flow so seamlessly together that if you weren’t paying attention to the tracklisting, they could be mistaken for one long, metal odyssey. Initially, these first moments remind me of the band’s 2010 album Snakes For The Divine, which has always been my favorite of their releases.
As for the vocals, frontman Matt Pike is sounding more aggressive and gruff than ever on this album. Going back to opening cut ‘The Black Plot,’ you can still tell that it’s Pike holding down the vocal fort for High On Fire, but it’s a grimier taste, one that’s got to make you wonder how his throat didn’t suffer throughout the recording of this album.
One of the album’s highlights is ‘Slave The Hive,’ which was actually released back in 2013 to promote a tour they were on at the time, though this version sounds a bit more polished to keep consistency with the rest of the album. It’s a monstrous, swallowing track that is forefronted by a blazing fast chugging riff that’s in typical High On Fire fashion. On a track like ‘The Dark Side Of The Compass,’ the fastness matched with Pike’s more commanding vocals make for another absolute headbanger of a song.
High On Fire has never been afraid to experiment a bit and slow things down. The first moment on Luminiferous that falls into this spectrum is ‘The Falconer,’ which is maybe the least exciting track on the entire LP. There’s nothing inherently wrong with how the band approached this song, but there just wasn’t anything particularly interesting going on with it to separate it enough from the other faster songs. However, on ‘The Cave,’ High On Fire totally does the slow format right, bringing in multiple movements to the piece and extra instrumentation. It feels epic, and not just because of its nearly-eight-minute runtime (which isn’t particularly out of character for High On Fire, but it’s nice when it works throughly the duration of the piece).
The album closes out with two of its strongest tracks; the title track ‘Luminiferous’ is one of the shortest cuts on the album and it doesn’t fuck around one bit. It’s punchy, it’s fast, it’s the closest High On Fire has ever been to sounding like a punk band. While it’s often a slight problem on High On Fire albums that many songs seem to sound alike, ‘Luminiferous’ breaks that mold by being the album’s most intense and in your face moment, neglecting to be confused with anything else. Closing track ‘The Lethal Chamber’ provides a perfect ending to the album, being the longest song on the record and taking everything from the preceding tracks and amplifying them far past 11.
Overall, Luminiferous is a great addition to the High On Fire catalogue. It’s a perfect next step from De Vermis Mysteriis, and a nice middle ground between that album and Snakes For The Divine. It’s not the greatest thing they’ve ever done, but if you like High On Fire, there’s no reason you shouldn’t like this album.
Written by L. Mounts