TVD Live: High on
Fire at the Regency Ballroom, 8/1

Like a powerful derecho blasting its way across the midwest, stoner rock icons High on Fire keep gathering momentum the further into their career they go. Their destructive winds blew into the Regency Ballroom on Saturday night (8/1) as the band began the tour in their home state of California. Hot on the heels of releasing their most dynamic album to date, Luminiferous, they seemingly have a renewed spark and have put together a package tour of brutal proportions.

Opening up the night was Houston’s Venomous Maximus. With songs full of dark stoner riffs like “Give Up the Witch,” the band was musically adept and at times walking the doom metal line harkening back to classic Pentagram or Sir Lord Baltimore. What was lacking here are the mediocre vocals of singer/guitarist Gregg Higgins. In fairness, Higgins sounds better on wax than on stage and their mix was muddier than the Rio Grande, but it just wasn’t happening in Frisco. The solid metal core of their songs carried them through their set and the slowly growing crowd showed them some love.

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Up next was Germany’s Lucifer, a band I was immensely excited for especially considering it was their first tour in the United States. Led by the bewitching Johanna Sadonis, Lucifer took the stage with something to prove—and prove it they did.

After an eerie intro, the band opened with pure Sabbath worship in the form of “Anubis.” The all-seeing eye on the back of Sadonis’ satin robe stared down the crowd as she turned away towards the drums and her voice was soaring and haunting, perfect all the way through as she writhed with the music. Her vocals were the focal point of their sound, but the thick guitars of metal veteran Gaz Jennings of Cathedral gave the band some serious weight. Two shows into the tour, Lucifer sounded well-seasoned and are destined for higher ground very soon.

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In the direct support slot were Arkansas doom giants Pallbearer. Having just seen their fantastic set in May at Psycho California, I was excited to get a chance to catch the road warriors once again and I was not let down. Slow, churning riffs and harmonious vocals from the front three members made their set stand out. Opening with the sorrowful dirge of “Worlds Apart,” the band went all the way to 11 from the start. The despair of the bleak lyrics was evident in the face of singer/guitarist Brett Campbell as he moaned verse after chorus.

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Continuing with “Ghost I Used To Be” and “Foreigner,” bassist Joseph Rowland was fluid, constantly in motion, and guitarist Devin Holt was lost in a sea of hair as he moved in time with the music. Pallbearer is as consistent as it gets and when seen live, their ability to draw out emotion through their music is tangible. It’s happened to me twice, and I look forward to the third time.

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After the set break, the lights went down and the emblematic visage of the bare-chested Matt Pike took the stage with little more fanfare than a wave, and within moments the sonic assault began in the form of “The Black Plot,” the lead track off of Luminiferous. As I stood in the center of the photo pit, the punishing double-bass drums of Des Kensel were so powerful it felt as if I was being rapid-fire punched in the chest.

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The setlist favored the new songs, with seven of the twelve being from the new album. Older favorites like “Speedwolf” and “Rumors of War” filled in between the newer material, but this night firmly belonged to Luminiferous. The number of songs played from the latest release speaks to their confidence and passion for the new release, and every one of them translated flawlessly to the live set.

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Pike was fully on his A-game, even having lost some pounds since seeing them back in April. His riffs are pure auditory bliss, and the sound from this trio packs a wallop and fills every inch of the venue without sacrificing sound quality. The band as a whole appeared intense, yet at ease on the bigger stage of the Regency. High on Fire closed out the night with the mighty “Snakes for the Divine,” a song that begins with one of the most epic and recognizable guitar riffs in existence, and commands every fist in the air as Pike starts playing it.

I’m not sure who was sweatier by the final notes—Matt Pike or the elated crowd filing out of the hotter-than-hell venue. After seventeen years of bone-crushing metal, High on Fire has taken a huge step forward and the strides they have made in the studio are unmistakably clear on the road.

HIGH ON FIRE

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PALLBEARER

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LUCIFER

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VENOMOUS MAXIMUS

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