Thursday, August 10, 2023

High On Fire's First Album Again

Man, I was pretty skeptical when I heard High On Fire were having their first album, The Art of Self Defense remastered for a re-release. On the one hand, it's still probably my favorite of their albums (Blessed Black Wings comes a pretty close second, though). Yet, while I still have the original, Man's Ruin CD version of Self Defense I bought at Crow's Nest Records in Down Town Chicago shortly after it came out in 2000, I'd love to have the record on vinyl, so it was with great trepidation I hit play on Apple Music this morning...

It's awesome. My greatest fear was they would raise Pike's voice and over-compress; not that there's a precedent for the latter with the band's subsequent releases, and I love Pike's voice as it's come to more prominence with each release after this one, but there's something so amazing about the way Self Defense sounded the day I brought it home, sparked up and put it in the stereo all those years ago. I was perplexed by the singer's voice being so low (this was my introduction to the new wave of "Stoner Rock" as everyone was calling it at the time, having previously enjoyed St. Vitus and Count Raven more 'flush with the mix" vocals on WXAV, 88.3 FM, St. Xavier's College Radio), but marveled at the way the guitars sparkled like they do for only one other human being I know - Tony Iommi! The rhythm section was so tight, so pummelling; it was all just such a fresh experience compared to whatever else was out there at the time Metal-wise. So The Art of Self Defense looms large in my life, and as with anything we deem to be of that importance, I felt nervous as hell about anyone changing it.

Again, no reason to be nervous. This shit rules!

"Blood From Zion" feels the most changed from the first side of the album ("Master of Fists" sounds like a different guitar take altogether was used for this release). Interestingly, for most of the tracks, Matt Pike's voice remains at just about the exact same level it was at in the original release; it's just clearer. Nice trick! The descending riff that bridges the first and second verses has to be heard on headphones to be believed. IT'S SO FUCKING HEAVY. I mean, it was always so fucking heavy, but it's like they added subsonic bulldozers to the mix or something. SO GOOD. 

You can find this pretty much everywhere online, however, High On Fire's Bandcamp has an exclusive, and while I love that original cover, I do still have that CD (remember Grace note database or whatever that function iTunes had where, if you transferred a CD to digital it could find the album information for you? When I digitized my old Self Defense to put on an iPod back in the late 00s, it came back with The Art of Self Defense, by Sleep!). 

Yeah, I think I can make room in my soul for this cover, too. You can also order directly from MNRK Heavy HERE, where the non-exclusive still has the same cover and will cost you a few bucks less on shipping.


Two nights ago, K and I watched Kurtis David Harder's newest film, Influencer on Shudder. I dug Harder's previous film Spiral quite a bit, but based on the title of this one, I was expecting a story about a completely unlikeable Influencer who gets her comeuppance.


I'm not going to post the trailer, because you shouldn't watch it. Yes, in the opening sequence of the film, you meet a really annoying social media influencer. Stick with it! That's not what the film is; this one reminded me A LOT of the experience I had watching Brad Anderson's Transsiberian back in 2008 or 2009, whenever it first hit video. Both films take continuous ninety-degree turns, so without having seen a trailer or read anything about either, I was left wondering from scene to scene, "Oh, is this what the film is about? Is this the landscape the characters are going to have to live in?" And, so beautifully, those assumptions were always squashed as something new gets introduced to change the film's narrative yet again. Really fun watch; not Horror, but a thriller for sure. Save it for a night when you want twists and turns more than blood and guts.


††† - Invisible Hand (pre-release single)
††† - Eponymous
The Bronx - The Bronx (III)
Various - Lost Highway OST
King Woman - Celestial Blues
Deftones - White Pony
Converge - Jane Doe
Blue Karma - The Friction, the Pain


From Jonathan Grimm's Bound Tarot, which you can buy HERE.

• XIV - Temperance or "Art" in Thoth speak
• Four of Swords 
• Three of Swords

Fight for your Art! Fours show stability and Threes the process of Growth or Change. The Novel's becoming something more than I'd planned, and while it's more work, I can temper myself against that and fight on toward the finish line.

Tarot aside, if you dig Jonathan Grimm's Bound deck, he has a Kickstarter launching on September 5th for his new deck, The Hand of Doom Tarot. This one's all Metal, Monsters, Magick in one beautiful deck. Here's the link; the campaign isn't active yet, but you can hit the Notify Me button and get in on the ground floor September 5th!

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