High On Fire's sixth studio album, De Vermis Mysteriis (The Mysteries of the Worm), has an accompanying story written by newly sober singer/guitarist Matt Pike. The Oakland metal wise man tells the tale of Balteazeen—Jesus Christ's twin—who sacrifices himself to give Jesus life. Balteazeen time-travels, hunting his way through the cesspool of existence in search of answers and meaning. He can see the past through his ancestors' eyes and continuously wakes up in other people's bodies at the wrong time. In the psychedelic roadhouse-tinged video for "Fertile Green," Balteazeen guides his motorcycle through highway portals, wields a rifle, and gets a hatchet to the forehead from a four-armed oracle he's having sex with. On De Vermis Mysteriis, Pike, Jeff Matz (bass), and Des Kensel (drums) spatter and maul—Pike's guttural, rasp-throated vocal ode to Lemmy has never sounded better. His guitar is both a stylus chiseling phrases into granite and a needle injecting docile, frantic oracle-fucking commands. Pike spoke from Buffalo, New York. He was having problems with his amp and was looking for a new transformer.
Where are you all headed now?
Cleveland. I'm dealing with an emergency amp repair. I have to put an order in and coordinate where, who, and how this thing's going to get fixed. I have to set up another amp to play tonight and a bunch of other shit. Can I call you back in a bit? Sorry about this. I hate this shit. [Calls back in an hour.]
High On Fire just recorded a couple shows in New York for a live album. How were the shows? Were you nervous because it was being recorded?
Yeah, I was very nervous. The shows were different; there was more at stake because they were being recorded—everything seemed more charged, more was being risked. We played a little longer than normal, especially the second night. The first night, of course, I had some equipment fuck up, so I was freaking the fuck out. The second night, I was nervous because the first night didn't go exactly how we wanted it to, but the show went well—something came over us, and I thought we just killed. Overall, between the two nights, I think we got enough stuff recorded.
What was messing up with your equipment?
We had a stack go out like right before when we went on. Everything I had worked out in sound check was wiped out, gone. There wasn't enough power. I can't plan or prepare for a fuckup like that.