Live Report: High On Fire @Thekla, Bristol – 6th February 2013

It’s a pretty overcast, grey day in Bristol and five minutes outside is enough to make you want to start a fire with any twigs and leaves you might be lucky to find. That said, waiting outside the Thekla venue, which is a boat, and hearing the roar of High On Fire soundchecking is what I’d imagine the rumbling of a dragon’s stomach would sound like, warming my soul with enough excitement to cope with the chill.

High on Fire-supports euro 2013

Shortly after the venue opens, the first of the two support bands make their way onstage. LizZard is a three-piece band that hails from France, and looks like three friends who have crossed stereotypical clique borders to form a band – yet the trio form a pretty convincing Tool-influenced style of experimental rock.

Ricous’ guitar abilities were nothing short of stunning, not only for his shredding, but for his precise control of ambient sound by manipulating the guitar with reverb and loops – something you would enjoy if you happen to be a fan of Ben Frost. While Knox was also tight on bass, he didn’t seem to share the bravado of Ricous, who joked with the crowd between songs. Elwell on the other hand looked like she was about to kick through the drumkit and start cracking skulls; playing with a ferociousness that would probably get a satisfactory nod from Keith Moon. There was a confusing moment where it seemed like there was a problem with the sound system during one of the songs, but LizZard played it cool.

Then Jumping Jack (also from France) staggered on stage, this time an easier band to guess their sound before a single note was played – all black, all long hair. The band delivered a very dirty, booze-filled set of garage rock, sounding a lot like earlier Zico Chain, with a tinge of blues. While vocalist Julien Bells manages to coax the audience into venturing closer to the stage and loosens the atmosphere, and bassist Manu Redhead constantly headbangs, it’s perhaps drummer Chris Dabrown who helps the most – constantly joking around in-between songs, getting up at moments and slamming down on his kit like Andrew WK possessed – being nothing short than entertaining.

While the music wasn’t that mind blowing or game changing, Jumping Jack clearly have fun doing what they do, and it was probably that that left an impact on some of the crowd.

However, High On Fire killed it that night. As soon as the members set foot on the stage, everyone surrounded the stage with cheers and roars, the band quickly bursting into what would be a crushing set: “Devilution”, “Turk”, “Rumours Of War” (a track constantly requested by certain members of the audience, to which an ill Matt Pike reassured “It’s fucking coming”), “10,000 Years”, “Fury Whip”, “Hung, Drawn & Quartered” and more.

The thing that strikes you most about Pike live is, while you know he can shred (anyone who has listened to at least one High On Fire song will know, duh), you still get blown away when he gets into those moments; because he makes it look so fucking easy! While several shredders play with an intensity that could kill a deer at 500 feet, Pike looks like a blues player (which he obviously can be at times) in fast forward.

Also, the guy was really bogged down with a cold, and he began retching at two moments during the night (after songs), which you can only imagine would be pure pain with his kind of gravelly vocals, yet he sounded pretty close to perfect. Nothing commands respect more than these points alone. Drummer Des Kensel was intense too, playing in a fury that’s criminally overlooked, as if drumming for his life; while bassist Jeff Matz looked as if he was in his natural habitat throughout the set, grinning at a fan who was trying to high-five him during a song. The two just played immaculately with clear passion and a tight chemistry.

Needless to say, High On Fire were fucking great and I’d seriously suggest you catch them live if you’re a fan. It’ll definitely strengthen your feelings for the band, just as it did for me.

Check out Rich’s interview with Mike Pike right here.

More of the bands:

High on Fire

Check out their website

Jumping Jack

Check out their website


Check out their website

About Rich (19 Articles)
A thirsty, Welsh fan of extremes, I mainly find myself drawn to the grindcore, sludge and doom genres. Outside of metal, I love a fair share of punk, hip-hop, post-rock, ambient, drone and electronica acts. Ever watched Grimes at Reading Festival in the Dance tent while wearing a metal hoodie? I have, that’s how unkvlt I can get. If any of that interests you, then I have my own review blog [] where I review both metal and non-metal stuff. Some personal favourites involve Pig Destroyer, Deftones, Melvins, Trash Talk, Eyehategod, Slayer and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Milk is the best hangover cure.

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