It seems a strange fit to have the Scottish (with a French vocalist), sci-fi progressive (with a hint of sludge-metal) act Dvne opening for Oakland’s High on Fire who have a much more visceral Motörhead influenced approach to their take on sludge but it is a perfect juxtaposition, and hey, these guys mostly sing about fantasy and battles anyway!
Dvne have been making beautiful sci-fi and fantasy inspired psychedelic, progressive, sludge metal since 2013. Their previous album 2017’s Asheran was well received and saw them touring extensively following it’s critical acclaim. Now signed to Metal Blade Records their latest release Eteka Aenka followed suite and it is solely tracks from this stunning album that they play tonight. Their performance is entrancing and hypnotic, a beautiful but turbulent soundscape with seamlessly woven threads of black metal and post hardcore into calming and crushing waves of sci-fi progressive metal. With two guitarists and a bass there are layers upon layers of intricate riffs and dramatic flourishes which are enhanced by the melodies and trippy synth effects from the keyboard. Notably the keyboard plays a prominent role through the set and the momentum of the dynamic drumming urges the instrumentation on through the musical storm. Unfortunately the strength in the vocals don’t quite match the epic scale of the music but as a whole Dvne are a force to be reckoned with and tonight they have for sure recruited many new fans for their growing army.
It’s ‘high’ time for what a good portion of the crowd has been not so patiently waiting for, High on fucking Fire. Kicking off the action is the explosive “Turk” from Death is this Communion and from this moment on the trio barely pause for breath. Mammoth-like rolling and – more of a goddamn stampede than galloping – drum beats from Coady Willis from Melvin’s and currently Big Business are accompanied by Jeff Matz’s rumbling bass and lightning riffs from the forever topless and forever sweaty Matt Pike. When his vehement and gravelly, Lemmy Killmeister-esque vocals kick in they are so furious and loud that they are barely legible. Despite the hilarious incoherency, the audience (and yours truly) still pretend to know them and wholeheartedly sings/yells along.
High on Fire are their own entity of not quite stoner, not quite thrash with a heavy dosing of filthy sludge. Tonight at The Fleece, if it’s even possible, they smash the decibel scale and indeed decimate many the unplugged ear. The only track that is played from the thrash-tastic, Motörhead worshiping 2018 release is Electric Messiah – whose song of the same title won a grammy award – is “Spewn from the Earth”. This manic track consists of relentless frenzied riffs, drum fills, monstrous barking vocals and the mosh pit grows in size and insanity by the minute. Any attempts at stage diving are thwarted by the venue crew- as well as Matz who gently but firmly uses his foot to push a rabid fan off of the platform.
For the frantic finale Pike announces they won’t be pissing around with the tease of an encore. Then it happens, the first few catchy and familiar licks has the crowd losing the fucking plot. It is of course, “Snakes for the Divine” and it is heavier, louder and faster than ever before, with monumentally monolithic, shredding solos and an arguably, even less coherent gnarly vocal attack from Pike.
After the aural assault is finally over there are a few groans about lack of hearing, some veterans even comment it’s one of the loudest shows they’ve experienced- which is really saying something. The overall conclusion though is that the damage is worth it and a wholehearted agreement all round that both bands absolutely smashed it.
Words and Photography by Abi Coulson: Darktones Photography