One of the most punitive and muscular power trios since Motörhead, High on Fire helped bring heavy music into the 21st century via a sonic beatdown of uncompromising doom and stoner metal. Founded in 1998 by frontman Matt Pike, who also plays in another influential stoner/doom rock trio, Sleep, High on Fire released a handful of well-received, though largely under-the-radar albums before issuing the acclaimed Blessed Black Wings in 2005. Subsequent efforts like Snakes of the Divine (2010) and Electric Messiah (2018), the latter of which took home a Grammy Award, continued to blow the unholy horn of plenty, helping the band earn their place as one of the most widely respected heavy metal outfits on the planet.
Guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike, bass player George Rice, and drummer Des Kensel formed High on Fire in 1999, following the collapse of Pike's previous band, doom metal titans Sleep. But while Sleep had built their fame on impossibly slothful tunes and copious weed consumption, High on Fire's first release, The Art of Self Defense, displayed a far more aggressive (though still fantasy-themed) style of heavy metal. Released to enthusiastic reviews, the album's prospects suffered from the imminent bankruptcy of its label Man's Ruin, and it wasn't until High on Fire landed on grindcore powerhouse Relapse Records for their second album, 2002's devastating Surrounded by Thieves, that their abundant promise was rewarded. Extensive touring and an ever-increasing fan base followed; by the time they unleashed their third release, Blessed Black Wings, in early 2005 (introducing new bassist Joe Preston (ex-Thrones and Melvins)), High on Fire had officially spilled out of the underground into the mainstream. Preston would be replaced by Jeff Matz, who played on their 2007 release, Death Is This Communion; the album soared to the top of numerous critics' year-end lists. In 2010, High on Fire returned with their fifth studio album, Snakes for the Divine, released on Koch. It found similar favor with critics and fans, as did 2012's De Vermis Mysteriis, which was produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. The following year, the stoner metal masters released a pair of live albums, Spitting Fire Live, Vol. 1 and Spitting Fire Live, Vol. 2, capturing two skull-crushing performances in New York City with a two-album set. When re-entering the studio, the trio teamed up with producer Ballou again and unleashed their seventh studio full-length, Luminiferous, in 2015; it featured the band's sound at its most elemental and stripped down. 2018 proved to be a busy year for Pike, who reunited with Sleep for The Sciences, the group's first collection of new material since 1999. Later that October, High on Fire released their eighth studio long player, Electric Messiah, which served as a tribute to Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister, and won Best Metal Performance at the 2019 Grammy Awards. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia