High on Fire, Mono, Panthers

High on Fire plays no-frills, denim-and-leather metal with fundamentalist zeal, an anachronism among extreme music's endless taxonomy of death, technical death, black, progressive black, doom, avant-doom, grind and/or metalcore. Guitarist Matt Pike's droning power-chord riffs, ornamented by slash-and-burn solos, are left over from his former band, the stoner/doom legends Sleep. Combined with the alternately tribal and martial rhythm section, the riffs rise to heights of incantatory phantasmagoria populated by yetis, demon armies, dragons and Vikings. It all sounds silly, but the band's three albums (The Art of Self Defense, Surrounded by Thieves and last year's Blessed Black Wings) hint at a coherent, if cryptic, personal mythology more than adolescent power fantasies.

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Matthew Everett