High On Fire - The Art Of Self-Defense
Of all the reissues this year, 2000's "The Art of Self-Defense" by High on Fire has to be at the top. Especially given the many ways in which its sounds have been absorbed into so many other styles by so many bands, this feels like it just came out.
The original six tracks are here, and it is fun to get reacquainted with the simple murky power of "Fireface," "Baghdad," "Master of Fists," etc. But the real meat is the extras: two tracks from a 2001 7" and the three song demo from 1999. The Celtic Frost cover ("The Usurper") is cool, but the other bonus track from the 7", "Steel Shoe," is just devastating. With reissues, you kinda hope that bonus material doesn't suck and serves more as items for completists than relevant insights into the band's development. More than fortunately, the 1999 demo provides the latter. The vocals are more upfront on an early version of "Master of Fists," but the furious churning rhythm is, if anything, heavier. Same for the version of "10,000 Years." You expect demos to be a bit murkier and ragged, but what comes through here is that the band's ideas were pretty well formed right from the beginning and, in anything, the incredible passion and invention of "The Art of Self Defense" was a shadow of some earlier run-throughs.
Also included in this must-have reissue package is a 48 page booklet; "The Art of Self Defense" would be a generous gift even without it. A reminder of the greatness of High On Fire and how right from the first guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike, along with Des Kensel on drums, and bassist George Rice were a game-changer, this debut from 2000 still holds its weight and its place in recent rock history.
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