High On Fire 

De Vermis Mysteriis

Heavy metal has always been overshadowed by its most famous fan, the Devil. Since Black Sabbath, the mascot has been as prominent as the music, and bands like Iron Maiden and Megadeth have managed the dubious achievement of standing alongside symbols of absolute evil while playing what sounded like an electrified gum wrapper. The technology just wasn't there—not in 1988, at least. But now it's the future, and in 2012, High On Fire can make an album that sounds like Satan is actually squeezing your brain.

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Really, it's Cthulhu. De Vermis Mysteriis is a codex of arcane knowledge from the Lovecraft universe; it's also a punishing course in hard 'n' heavy, with relentless drums and tautly contained thrash guitar that barely leave room for Matt Pike to snarl. Yes, it comes dressed in the same tired motifs, comically familiar as soon as you hear them—for example, there's a track here called "Madness of an Architect." For once, though, the songs live up to the impossible standard of cosmic destruction set by the stage dressing. Listen to "Serum of Liao" and consider that High on Fire finally may have somehow made music more evil than the album cover.

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