High on Fire

It’s getting towards the end of the semester. I’m working on several projects including an end of year book, slide-show presentation, prints for another project  and 5 other things…plus my art stuff that extends beyond class criteria. Also, I spend so much time scanning film, sorting through files of images and editing my writing. I’m learning InDesign and improving my Photoshop skills. How am I supposed to write about how I’m inspired? I’m already 2 days late. I can’t write about Daido Moriyama again, can I? I could write about the pictures and words of Moyra Davey, but she deserves more than I can give at this moment. I went to the Met and to yoga today, which was amazing, but still no start there.

When I think about inspiration, what comes to mind are people and ideas that add fuel to the fire to live life and make work.  I’m inspired by myself and my own manic drive to make pictures. My boyfriend, friends and classmates inspire me by their own work and support. The list of deep relationships and profound personal experiences that keep me plodding forward have resulted in feelings of ineffable appreciation, in spite of how overwhelmed I have been by the complicated nature of life. So, to keep this simple, so I’m going to write about “High on Fire.”


I saw them for the cagillionth time the Friday before last. As I decide to write about High on Fire for my inspiration-blog assignment, I check out some recent reviews. There’s one in the New York Times of the show I just saw at Gramercy theater.  Ben Ratliff’s opinion of the band is unclear. He’s critical of the bad sound and of Matt Pike’s rough appearance/garbled vocals and referred to High on Fire as the forever “opening band.”  He clearly states that the band makes strong music and pays an homage to their ability to play no matter what, as if they were fighting in a “prolonged war.” But it’s clear that Ben hasn’t been in the trenches. As I read it and other reviews I find myself increasingly agitated. Reviewers either clog their assessments with endless metal/rock jargon or incessantly express frustration with being unable to fit High on Fire into any genre or progressive category. I’m reminded that I dislike a lot of art critique as well and am often irritated by the tone used by authoritative opinion sharers. Sometimes I don’t want to think about it anymore.  I just want to like it.

Which brings me to what I do like about High on Fire.  They are just gnarly dudes that stayed underground and just play really good, crushing, heavy metal that somehow is imbued with “pretty.” There is a solid rhythm and melody that keeps plodding through, ceaselessly. I’ve seen them play more than any other band over the past 10 years and I never tire of seeing them.  I think it’s fantastic they write sings about H.P Lovecraft stories, lizard-people conspiracy theories (ala David Icke), death, hellfire, mid-evil battles, etc. But what I really love about the band is how consistent their overwhelming sound just is. It’s heavy and completely enveloping and front man Matt Pike doesn’t pretend to do anything other than play epic guitar and embody completely the music he is playing.  There is no front. It’s sex, drug and rock-n-roll forever for that guy. However, there is an intelligence and skill that is essential to making the music. But it’s not trying to be smart or wanting it. It just is.  He’s a wicked guitar player and skilled lyricist. One gets the impression he really doesn’t give a fuck about anything else.

I keep thinking about the magazine, Grand Royal, the Beastie Boys put out in the early 90’s.  Beyond just cleverly dissing Russel Simmons and also coining the term “mullet” that became rampantly used shortly there after, on the cover was a Grandmaster Flash drawing of Bruce Lee and a 20 page article about why Bruce Lee was dope after all these years.  The essence of it was that he just had mad style and it equated his outlook to contemporary rap stars of the time.  But I didn’t even remember all of that until I googled the magazine just now.  What stood out to me is that  Mike D said Bruce Lee was dope and I knew that it had to be true.  What this has to do with Matt Pike and High on Fire, I’m not entirely sure.  They are just dope. Sometimes you just know something is rad. There is something vital in being in that mind-set. It’s close to the part of me that doesn’t want to grow up and think anymore. The key to that is to keep investigating anyways.  That is where sometimes I fall short.  I can get lost in the sound or aesthetic of a song or a picture, without caring so much about what it all means.  Although, when I do investigate I find out my suspicions of greatness are not unfounded and find a more meaningful experience is created. As a result, more and more often I will investigate more thoroughly.  After all, it does help to know what one is talking about, especially after rocking about.


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