Saturday, 7 December 2013

CD Review: Blessed Black Wings, by High On Fire (2005)

Sparse stoner metal celebrating a minimalist, raw sound, Blessed Black Wings finds Oakland, California's High On Fire throwing up a wobbly wall of uncoordinated sound, trying to make do with sweat and energy rather than talent.

Joe Preston's bass drones on in the foreground, drowning out Matt Pike's nails-in-the-flesh vocals. Des Kensel is all effort but minimal impact behind the drum set. Pike's guitar work has all the sophistication of The Sex Pistols at their most basic.

The mix is a sludgy mess, Steve Albini doing his best to mush up all the sounds, creating the studio equivalent of a live concert recorded in a cramped venue reeking of body odour.

Nevertheless, there are a few good moments scattered on the album. The back end of The Face Of Oblivion introduces an interesting tune pointing to some curiously sober directions that the band otherwise ignores. Title track Blessed Black Wings suddenly features a solidity that places the band on the front foot, as a robust melody takes over and almost fully overcomes the dodgy execution. To Cross The Bridge steers towards a promising eastern destination but then gets lost in the glare. Closer Sons Of Thunder is a decent enough instrumental, if rather repetitive.

Otherwise, the best that can be said about Blessed Back Wings is that some of the more frantic passages sound like Nirvana's wilder interludes. That enthusiasm is immediately tempered by the knowledge that what was fresh in 1991 is quite stale after being left behind the counter for 14 years.


Matt Pike - Guitar, Vocals
Des Kensel - Drums
Joe Preston - Bass

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Devilution - 7
2. The Face Of Oblivion - 7
3. Brother In The Wind - 6
4. Cometh Down Hessian - 6
5. Blessed Black Wings - 9
6. Anointing Of Seer - 6
7. To Cross The Bridge - 7
8. Silver Back - 5
9. Sons Of Thunder - 8

Average: 6.78

Produced by Steve Albini and High On Fire.
Engineered by Steve Albini. Mastered by John Golden.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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