Review: High On Fire – Bat Salad (RSD 2019)

With a cover simultaneously parodying/homaging Celtic Frost’s To Mega Therion and a title that gives a homophonic nod to Black Sabbath, High on Fire’s 2019 Record Store Day release Bat Salad quite literally wears its influences on its sleeve.

Pressed on translucent vinyl with black and green spattering, Bat Salad is a no-nonsense affair that’s over and done in less than thirteen minutes. But it makes a big bang in that time.

Side A is taken up by the titular track, a doomy instrumental tribute to Black Sabbath that’s still very recognisably High On Fire. But of more interest to new and old fans alike is Side B, which features two cover tracks – Celtic Frost’s ‘Into the Crypts of Rays’ (complete with screaming intro) and Bad Brains’ ‘Don’t Bother Me’.

Covers are always an interesting challenge, particularly for established bands; hew too close to the original and there’s little point, while a total reworking can ruin what people originally liked about the song in the first place. In this instance, both are successful. Given the obvious influence that Celtic Frost and Bad Brains have had on High on Fire’s sound, they make for natural cover choices, while still sounding like they could fit in among the band’s back catalogue.  

Bat Salad isn’t an essential purchase for the more casual High on Fire fan, but as a Record Store Day exclusive it’s very nicely executed. The production is excellent, the songs never overstay their welcome, the splatter vinyl is gorgeous and the cover art leaps off the cardboard.  

Bat Salad is out now. Contact your local record store to see if they have any copies left!

Words: Tom G. Wolf