High on Fire - Surrounded By Thieves
Relapse Records
Stoner Metal
8 songs (40:38)
Release year: 2002
High on Fire, Relapse Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Having suffered the indignity of some random shitbiscuit walking off with my mildly expensive mobile phone, the only response I was capable of after much outraged spluttering was to think of an album with ‘thief’ somewhere in the title and write about it. Hence this review! Yet you don’t really need an excuse to listen to High On Fire at the best of times, Pike & co’s brand of rumbling post-Melvins weed-laced Doom always enjoyable from the raw beginnings of The Art Of Self Defence to the relatively slick Snakes For The Divine of earlier this year. As the band’s second full-length, Surrounded By Thieves is much closer to the former than the latter – not that you’ll need to be told after seeing that rather cool artwork. Using the power-trio format to the full, the band’s sound is a unique spin on the Stoner formula, being a bluesy volcanic eruption that marries wayward riffs and solos from the former Sleep man Pike to Des Kensel’s drums, like a building permanently collapsing in on itself.

The songs are less defined and varied than later in the band’s career, sounding mostly like minor cast members from the Conan films covering Sabbath. You have to listen hard to really appreciate this, but it’s not hard, as the sound is pretty intense as it is and there’s an atmosphere of restrained violence about it which is instantly commanding. Moments such as the percussion-led swirl of Thraft Of Canaan are almost psychedelic, drawing you into the swirling sludge and drowning you in riffs. Elephantine squalls of melody are drowned in psychedelically-tinged mud in Eyes And Teeth, whilst Hung Drawn & Quartered is an epic piece that feels like it was created somewhere in the Dark Ages – wherever you look, a stormy brew of molten rock awaits you.

Quite often, stoner rock leans towards the more blissful, spaced-out aspect of the experience, a few quick puffs and a gentle ride. High On Fire cater for a distinctly more hardcore set, the ones who see the coughing and burnt throats as an essential part of the experience. If randomly passing out and waking to scorched lips and gaps in your memory is part of your stoner experience, then High On Fire provide the perfect soundtrack, a slow deep crumble of Doom that is more than enough to take you away from your troubles for a while. Real good shit, man.

Killing Songs :
Eyes And Teeth, Hung Drawn & Quartered, The Yeti, Thraft Of Canaan, Surrounded By Thieves
Goat quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by High on Fire that we have reviewed:
High on Fire - Luminiferous reviewed by Goat and quoted 74 / 100
High on Fire - The Art Of Self Defence (reissue) reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
High on Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
High on Fire - Snakes For The Divine reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
High on Fire - Death is this Communion reviewed by Adam and quoted 89 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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