Guitarist-singer Matt Pike's monomaniacal vision is his band's crowning virtue. The recent addition of bassist Joe Preston, formerly of the overrated Melvins, doesn't fundamentally change the High on Fire dynamic: The guitars and drums are the point here. Des Kensel introduces the full-throated screamfest "Devilution," which opens the album, with a rockslide of rhythm. Not a note is wasted, from that track all the way through the seven-minute closing instrumental "Sons of Thunder."
High on Fire has gotten faster since its 16-ton debut, The Art of Self Defense. This is a good thing. Kensel's near-tribal beats bolster Pike's ever-more-assaultive riffing and drive his solos into the stratosphere. Blessed Black Wings is a major advance for High on Fire and an energizing start to what will hopefully be a tremendous year for metal.