Earlier this year, High On Fire released one of this year’s best albums, stoner metal masterpiece De Vermis Mysteriis. However, until recently the band never got to tour behind it, save for a handful of shows at SXSW shortly before the album came out. With a high-profile slot on the Mayhem Fest looming, the band pulled out of the festival at the last minute so frontman Matt Pike could go to rehab. Now a newly sober Pike is on tour with Goatwhore, Primate and Lo-Pan, and they spent the weekend in New York City, recording their shows at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom (Friday, 30) and Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg (Saturday, 1) for a forthcoming live album. We caught the show on Saturday.
With the openers having gotten the attention of the full, but not sold-out audience, we arrived just as High on Fire took the stage to album opener “Serums of Liao.” For someone that had been battling alcohol and/or drugs, there wasn’t a marked difference in Pike’s performance. His voice sounded just as whiskey-fueled as it did when it was actually fueled by whiskey. And given that Pike tends to perform shirtless when he plays, we can confirm that he looks about the same as he did before (aka “not sex god status”), if maybe a little pudgier. What sobriety might have done is focused him a bit more. Pike, drummer Des Kenzel and bassist Jeff Matz are one of the most powerful power trios out there, and it was on full display on Saturday night.
As the first tour in support a new album should be, the set highlighted De Vermis Mysteriis, with about a third of the album being played. It will be interesting to hear what the percentage of songs wind up on the live album from Bowery vs. Music Hall of Williamsburg, because they were on point on Saturday. Whether ripping through classics like “Devilution” and “Hung, Drawn and Quartered” or playing never tracks like “Fertile Green” and the slow-burning “Madness of an Architect,” the band did it well and did it extremely loudly to a very enthusiastic crowd. Set list is below:
Serums of Liao
Hung, Drawn and Quartered
Madness of an Architect
Snakes for the Divine