High on Fire - The Art of Self Defense (Reissue)This July, Southern Lord Records gave us back a gem that had been off the shelves for a while.  High on Fire releases their first full length album “The Art of Self Defense” in 2000 on Man’s Ruin Records.  On a label where no contracts were signed, 50/50 profits and copyrights and publishing agreements of 2-5 years, even without their downfall, this record was bound to be distributed again.  Years later in 2001, Tee Pee Records re-released “The Art of Self Defense” for the first time, including a Celtic Frost cover ‘The Usurper,’ the new track ‘Steel Shoe’ as well as unique cover art.

Seems like the band still felt like they could step up their game and makes some improvements in order to re-package it to a new generation of metalheads that may have missed it the first time around. This time recruiting Brad Boatright of From Ashes Rise to remaster the entire album, reviving the drums to a move pivotal level of heaviness without losing the original sound.  Also included, the original versions of ‘Blood From Zion’, ‘10,000 Years’, and ‘Master of Fists’ from their self-titles 1999 Demo.

Similar to the booklet included in Defeater’s “Empty Days & Sleepless Nights,” High on Fire has included a 48 page photo booklet to give the fans a little more.  While upping the quality of many things, the band did lose me at one alteration; the dreaded digipak.  As a format I despise for its potential to get damaged with no durable covering, it seemed like an odd choice for an album they’re trying to extend the life of but perhaps with the remastering fees, they had to make this selection for financial reasons.

With Matt Pike’s signature vocals, need I say more?  You can’t really go wrong.  Even if you’ve only just discovered High on Fire through their latest album “De Vermis Mysteriis,” which has moved the band along to race alongside Pike’s championing project Sleep, it is all the more reason to re-enter the vault with Southern Lord and immerse yourself in the sedated, colossal riffage.  Catching you with their rhythmically binding hooks and captivating progression, this is why we still love High on Fire.

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