High on High on Fire live

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Early High on Fire, mach I. Courtesy of MTV.com.

By Ben Richardson

There were a few chuckles from the audience when someone enjoined High on Fire to "play the heavy one," and a few more when frontperson Matt Pike replied, "I will."

Levity aside, the good-natured heckling suggested something more profound. During the band's free set Tuesday evening at Amoeba, High on Fire became the Heavy One, writ large and inked in blood, and ran through a set of songs from their new CD that pummeled with abandon.

Pike's fingers danced like dervishes across the extra-wide fret-board of his custom-made nine-string, and his face twisted into a devilish grin every time he pulled of something particularly awesome. The kings of conflagration inebriation played the new songs to perfection, doing full and fiery justice to Death Is This Communion riffmonsters like "Turk" and "Rumors of War." The trio was rounded out by drummer Des Kensel and bassist Jeff Matz, the thunder to Pike's lightning fingers, and a gruesome rhythm twosome in their own right. If the set had any weakness, it was that the frontperson's voice sounded a little thin, but the ex-Sleep guitarist's raspy, wounded bellow is appealing in its rawness, and he was hampered by an admittedly dinky PA.

After yesterday's record release, High on Fire sets off on a national tour, returning to San Francisco for two culminating dates at the Independent, Oct. 28 and 29.