There's something universal about the power of a great riff. On Monday night, one of history's greatest riffsmiths, Matt Pike, and his band, High on Fire
, descended on the Riot Room to demonstrate their mastery of his craft.
High on Fire's set was primarily culled from its 2012 album, De Vermis Mysteriis
, which offers no shortage of the monolithic riffage fans have come to expect. Pike's signature throaty rasp over a grimy, detuned guitar has become the trademark of the Oakland-based three-piece. The audience hung on his every power chord and grunt, whether shouting along to favorites like "Frost Hammer," kickstarting the world's slowest mosh pit to "Snakes for the Divine" or obliging Pike when he introduced "Fertile Green" with "This is a song about weed!" Despite the slow pace of some of his songs, Pike (plus rhythm section Jeff Matz and Des Kensel) kept the set moving at a lively pace, pummeling his happy crowd with faster songs like "Rumors of War." (Though he did slow things down for "Madness of an Architect," which called to mind his old band, doom legends Sleep.)
- Air guitar theatrics from Goatwhore
's blend of aggressive thrash with grimy, evil black metal left it the odd band out in some respects, but its fans - many armed with spiked gauntlets and bullet belts - seemed to get along well enough with High on Fire's bearded-stoner fanbase. Vocalist Ben Falgoust haunched over the monitors like a gargoyle, rapidly crisscrossed the stage, windmilled and air-guitared along with guitarist Sammy Duet's solos; his was arguably the most captivating performance of the night. The New Orleans natives bounced from mosh-friendly thrash metal to extreme black metal and everything in between. Cuts from their most recent record, Blood for the Master
, were met with approval, and favorites like set-closer "Apocalyptic Havoc" damn near brought the house down.
Columbus, Ohio's Lo-Pan
hewed more closely to the High on Fire blueprint, which was just fine with the early arrivals. After breaking a string in the first song, guitarist Brian Fristoe bravely soldiered on and led the band through a series of swampy, lumbering jams that sounded like the product of a band from Florida or Georgia, not the Buckeye State. They were joined by locals In the Grove
, who started the night by putting a bluesy spin on their sludge-tinged rock and roll and reminding us all that at the end of the day, it's all about the riff.