Spin - "[T]he record's careful careening represents a honing of their better impulses, resulting in a full-length that's both leaner and more imposing than anything else they've released to date."
Personnel: Matt Pike (vocals, guitar); Jeff Matz (bass guitar, background vocals); Des Kensel (drums, background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Kurt Ballou.
Recording information: GodCity.
Illustrator: Jordan Barlow.
In the three-year studio interim between High on Fire's mighty De Vermis Mysteriis and Luminiferous, guitarist Matt Pike has been a busy guy. Two volumes of live recordings appeared, and he and OM bassist Al Cisneros re-formed Sleep (after decades off), made a record, and toured with Jason Roeder from Neurosis in the drum chair. One had to wonder whether any of Sleep's stoner psychedelia would rub off when HOF returned to recording. No worries. Pike, with drummer Des Kensel and bassist Jeff Matz, adhere strictly to their sludgy, bruising, chugging brand of metal. Also returning is producer Kurt Ballou, who helmed De Vermis Mysteriis -- marking the first time that HOF has used the same producer twice. The sound here is even more stripped-down, essential in its churn and burn. Check opener "The Black Pot" with the interplay of ever-ascending riffs and Kensel's slamming tom-tom attack. The tag ends and bridges are classic Pike, his voice roaring into the sonic maelstrom. The same goes for the thrash and burn aesthetic of "Slave the Hive," highlighted by the gang-chanted refrain. "The Sunless Years" is slower, but so rippled with potent, winding side riffs (and a killer lead guitar break) that the tempo itself becomes the catalyst for its bludgeoning force. The heated exchange between Pike's massive riff on "The Dark Side of the Compass," Matz's distorted, fuzzed-out bassline, and Kensel's kit work, which alternates between martial fills and hard-swinging time keeping, is equaled only by its sense of sprawl; the jam is wide open, cranking, with several distinct sections packed into its five-and-a-half-minute length, separated by sharp, melodic guitar breaks. Pike's lyrics are drenched with terrestrial and extraterrestrial conspiracy theories, littered with references to mythology and arcane texts. His crazy conviction is never overstated, it's as matter of fact as it is passionate. One outlier on the set is the power ballad "The Cave," Pike's tale of his personal odyssey through addiction into sobriety, is harrowing but not preachy. His narrative is delivered through a bluesed-out narrative ripped at the seams with a roaring Sabbath-esque riff that could have come from Vol. IV. This is no mere confessional song, this is the tale of fighting with the beast unto the point of death. One reason that High on Fire don't get accused of resting on their laurels is that they always come out hungry, anxious to refine their sound and remove anything that is not absolutely essential to their purposes. Luminiferous accomplishes that as well. It is as fine, if not even better than, De Vermis Mysteriis. ~ Thom Jurek