The Art of Self Defense
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HIGH ON FIRE - The Art of Self Defense cover
3.79 | 6 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2000

Filed under Sludge/Post-metal


1. Baghdad (5:15)
2. 10,000 Years (7:53)
3. Blood From Zion (4:55)
4. Last (6:36)
5. Fireface (8:35)
6. Master of Fists (10:06)

Total Time: 43:20


- Matt Pike / vocals & guitar
- George Rice / bass
- Des Kensel / drums

About this release

Full-length, Man, June 11th, 2000

Thanks to UMUR, triceratopsoil for the updates

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Time Signature
Master of the sludge...

Genre: stoner / sludge

Heralded by many as the masters of stoner doom metal, High on Fire released The Art of Self Defense back in 2000. Now, the album sees the light of day again, being reissued in a completely remastered format and packed with goodies in the forms of a handful of bonus tracks in addition to the original six tracks and a fat booklet.

The tracks on the album are characterized by heavy beats, sludgy grooves and a bog fat bass which almost dominates the picture completely. Drawing more on the stoner-oriented aspect of the monster that is doom metal as created by Black Sabbath, the album is more darkly psychedelic than truly doom-laden. But there is no mistaking that those grooves and beats are crushingly compelling. From the stomping rhythm of 'Baghdad' over the heavy beats of '10,000 Years' and 'Master of the Fists' and the aggressive drive of of 'Blood from Zion' and 'Last', this album should definitely rock the world of any sludge-head who hasn't hear it yet.

The bonus tracks consist mainly of demo versions of some of the album's songs, but an interesting treat is the inclusion of a cover version of the Celtic Frost classic, 'The Usurper', which – although quite faithful – makes the song sound sludgier than ever.

Heavy and groovy, this album should appeal to fans of stoner metal and sludge metal, and if you have not yet heard this album, then you should strike now that it has been reissued and purchase the enhanced version.

(review originally posted at
The Art of Self Defense is the debut full-length studio album by American Stoner/ doom metal act High on Fire. Former Sleep guitarist Matt Pike formed High on Fire after Sleep disbanded in 1998. Here Matt Pike handles both the guitar and the lead vocal duties. George Rice plays the bass while the drums are played by Des Kensel.

The music on the album is deeply Black Sabbath influenced stoner/ doom metal. I wasn´t expecting much because bands that wear their influences that much on their sleeve usually end up sounding like empty clones. That´s certainly not the case with High on Fire though. There´s so much filthy rock´n´roll attitude and fierce energy on this album that I just can´t get enough. This album has been in almost constant rotation since I got it. The music is mostly slow- to midpaced but with lots of groove and rythm to keep it interesting. Matt Pike is a great vocalist. Think a more angry sounding Lemmy. The music is guitar riff driven and there are some great riffs on this album. The power trio format works really well for the band and while there are some solo overdubs when Matt Pike plays his guitar solos, I can vividly imagine the music on this album being directly transfered to a live environment and maybe even sounding better than on album. While all songs are above average and some are even excellent ( take a listen to 10,000 Years and get blown away), monotony does set in from time to time which is almost inevitable in music like this. It´s not a big problem like it is on other stoner/ doom metal releases I´ve listened to though.

The production is raw and even noisy at times, but it suits the filthy rock´n´roll attitude perfectly.

Fans of the legendary Black Sabbath debut album should invest their money here. Not because The Art of Self Defense is a clone of that album, but because there´s a similar wild and dark attitude and loads of heavy stoner/ doomy riffing on this album just as there are on Black Sabbath (1970). Of course that also means that this is not the most original material in the world and I´ll take away a half star from my rating because of that, but this is still an extremely enjoyable album that I can highly recommend.

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