High on Fire + I Exist + Lo!
Manning Bar, Sydney
20 February 2016
Review by Cameron Cooper
Photos by Joel Anderson
“Here’s your f*ckin’ encore,” growled Matt Pike. The room awash with feedback, smoke and piss and vinegar, before descending into Fertile Green and Snakes For The Divine, leaving the audience stunned and stammering. With the mosh pit flooded in beer, sweat and blood, the night ended with High on Fire maintaining their crowns as the undisputed kings of sludge. But they didn’t get there tonight without help from supports.
Kicking off proceedings, the deranged hardcore quartet Lo! delivered an unbelievably tight set of start-stop riffs, bowel shifting breakdowns and knuckle dragging doom metal. Vocalist Sam Dillon’s delivery was flawless, although his grand gestures felt jarring at times. The band is clearly deserving of (and would feed better off) a bigger crowd than an opening slot affords, and their drum dominated mix let them down slightly.
If there is one word to describe I Exist’s sound, it’s ‘monstrous’. With walls of amplification and a stage-stomping vocalist, the band are so loud, and devouring that their brand of sludge could be weaponised. A hallmark of their live performance is the cacophony created by having three guitars, so it was a bit of a shame to see them one man down. However, the band by no stretch let that stop them, and the ACT boys proved that they are the best at what they do.
With zero pomp or pretence, Matt Pike and his partners in slime moseyed onto stage and began deconstructing The Manning Bar one riff at a time. While Pike’s sobriety is commendable for obvious reasons, seeing him sling a Les Paul dry vs during his more debaucherous years is night and day; his ability to replicate the spider-web leads and jaw breaking rhythms from the band’s catalogue is outstanding, as are the eternally tight rhythm duo of Des Kensel and Jeff Matz. The matter-of-fact attitude and humble nature of the band reminds us that High On Fire are a band of music fans: there is no grand divide of posturing between the boys on stage and the stinky legions in the pit. Although sludge may continue its rise into the hearts of mainstream metal, High On Fire remain an unwavering example of what the genre is all about.