SANF May 2008 : 52

52 SAN FRANCISCO MAY 2008 THETALK MUSIC Headbanging makes headway The Bay Area is a black-clad epicenter of heavy-metal mania. The witching hour was fast approaching, and the crowd at the Uptown club in Oakland was getting restless. It had been an epic night already—one smoke machine, four bands, an uncountable number of banging heads—but everyone was waiting for the main attraction: Matt Pike, singer and guitarist for local metal trio High on Fire, aka the heaviest band on God’s green earth. He entered from stage left, a shirtless and heavily tatted presence with a custom nine-string guitar. The fi rst song, a thrasher called “Turk,” hit the room like a shock wave. The mosh pit rippled backward through the crowd as Odin- bearded latecomers pushed their way toward the stage to get in on the action. A sludgy mix of chugging riffs and growling, half-shouted vocals, this was music you felt in your guts, a prehistoric throb that transported grown men back to their adolescence, jumping around the rec room with the stereo cranked. The band had spent the last five weeks touring behind its latest album, DeathIsThis Communion, and tonight’s show had the feel of a homecoming. “Here’s to Oakland,” Pike yelled, to a roar from the crowd. “My fucking family!” Once upon a time, the Bay Area was one of the centers of the metal universe. In the 1980s, monsters of hard rock like Metallica, Exodus, and Death Angel stalked this coastal land. But times changed: Metal fell, indie rock rose, and Metallica recorded with the San Francisco Symphony (really). High on Fire and its tour mates, Saviours, another up-and-coming Oakland band—with an admirably forthright MySpace description, “METAL/METAL/ METAL”—have reclaimed the throne, putting Bay Area metal on the map again. Taking cues from old masters like Black Sabbath and Motörhead, the band hews proudly to tradition: no rapping, no emo angst—just pummeling, wall-of-sound guitars and bongload lyrics about yetis, seers, and apocalyptic battles between good and evil. In the process, it’s drawn plenty of mainstream attention. RollingStonenamed Pike one of its 20 new “guitar gods”; reviewers in the NewYork Times, meanwhile, name-checked High on Fire twice in seven days last fall. Judging by the crowd at the Oakland show, metal isn’t just for heshers anymore. There was a smattering of gnarly fortysomething dudes in faded Iron Maiden tees, but most of the audience members weren’t walking stereotypes. There were skinny jeans and socialist-worker caps, even a few Marina-girl skirts (worn by actual women, who aren’t generally considered a big metal demographic). In short, many of the people wouldn’t have looked out of place at, say, a Radiohead show. Case in point: Adam Stackhouse, an urbane, 35-year-old rare-book appraiser at Bonhams & Butterfields who also listens to hip-hop, country, and indie folk. When asked about High on Fire, he gave the same answer the Iron Maiden guy would have: “I like the energy and aggression.” That sums it up. Sometimes you just want music to hit you so hard that, at least for a while, you don’t feel anything else. As the show neared its climax, the band launched into “Blessed BlackWings,” a song that, despite its brutality, has a certain sing-along qua lity. “You all should know the words to this song,” a sweaty and possessed-looking Pike announced. “And if you don’t,” he cackled, “you shouldn’t be here.” The riffi ng began, and the crowd went nuts. Everyone knew the words. Out on the sidewalk afterward Stackhouse nodded in approval. “It was a good show,” he said. “He did a lot of spitting.” ■ CHRIS SMITH HIGH ON FIRE PLAYS MAY 19 AT THE SAN JOSE STATE EVENT CENTER, MYSPACE.COM/HIGHONFIRESLAYS, GIGANTOUR.COM/HOME.PHP Leading the charge: heavy-metal band High on Fire’s front- man, Matt Pike. PHOTOGRAPH BY TAIJALYNN.COM

Music

Headbanging makes headway<br /> <br /> The Bay Area is a black-clad epicenter of heavy-metal mania.<br /> <br /> The witching hour was fast approaching, and the crowd at the Uptown club in Oakland was getting restless. It had been an epic night already—one smoke machine, four bands, an uncountable number of banging heads—but everyone was waiting for the main attraction: Matt Pike, singer and guitarist for local metal trio High on Fire, aka the heaviest band on God’s green earth.<br /> <br /> He entered from stage left, a shirtless and heavily tatted presence with a custom nine-string guitar. The fi rst song, a thrasher called “Turk,” hit the room like a shock wave. The mosh pit rippled backward through the crowd as Odinbearded latecomers pushed their way toward the stage to get in on the action. A sludgy mix of chugging riffs and growling, half-shouted vocals, this was music you felt in your guts, a prehistoric throb that transported grown men back to their adolescence, jumping around the rec room with the stereo cranked. The band had spent the last fi ve weeks touring behind its latest album, Death Is This Communion, and tonight’s show had the feel of a homecoming. “Here’s to Oakland,” Pike yelled, to a roar from the crowd. “My fucking family!” Once upon a time, the Bay Area was one of the centers of the metal universe. In the 1980s, monsters of hard rock like Metallica, Exodus, and Death Angel stalked this coastal land. But times changed: Metal fell, indie rock rose, and Metallica recorded with the San Francisco Symphony (really).<br /> <br /> High on Fire and its tour mates, Saviours, another up-and-coming Oakland band—with an admirably forthright MySpace description, “METAL/METAL/ METAL”—have reclaimed the throne, putting Bay Area metal on the map again. Taking cues from old masters like Black Sabbath and Motörhead, the band hews proudly to tradition: no rapping, no emo angst—just pummeling, wall-of-sound guitars and bongload lyrics about yetis, seers,And apocalyptic battles between good and evil.<br /> <br /> In the process, it’s drawn plenty of mainstream attention. Rolling Stone named Pike one of its 20 new “guitar gods”; reviewers in the New York Times, meanwhile, name-checked High on Fire twice in seven days last fall.<br /> <br /> Judging by the crowd at the Oakland show, metal isn’t just for heshers anymore. There was a smattering of gnarly fortysomething dudes in faded Iron Maiden tees, but most of the audience members weren’t walking stereotypes. There were skinny jeans and socialist-worker caps, even a few Marina-girl skirts (worn by actual women, who aren’t generally considered a big metal demographic).<br /> <br /> In short, many of the people wouldn’t have looked out of place at, say, a Radiohead show. Case in point: Adam Stackhouse, an urbane, 35-year-old rare-book appraiser at Bonhams & Butterfi elds who also listens to hip-hop, country, and indie folk.<br /> <br /> When asked about High on Fire, he gave the same answer the Iron Maiden guy would have: “I like the energy and aggression.” That sums it up. Sometimes you just want music to hit you so hard that, at least for a while, you don’t feel anything else.<br /> <br /> As the show neared its climax, the band launched into “Blessed Black Wings,” a song that, despite its brutality, has a certain sing-along qua lity.<br /> <br /> “You all should know the words to this song,” a sweaty and possessed-looking Pike announced.<br /> <br /> “And if you don’t,” he cackled, “you shouldn’t be here.” The riffi ng began, and the crowd went nuts.<br /> <br /> Everyone knew the words.<br /> <br /> Out on the sidewalk afterward Stackhouse nodded in approval. “It was a good show,” he said.<br /> <br /> “He did a lot of spitting.” ¦ CHRIS SMITH HIGH ON FIRE PLAYS MAY 19 AT THE SAN JOSE STATE EVENT CENTER, MYSPACE.COM/HIGHONFIRESLAYS, GIGANTOUR.COM/HOME.PHP<br /> <br />

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