When you see Matt Pike play guitar — snaggle-teeth glinting, baby-beer-belly inching over belt buckle, sweat dripping across numerous just-better-than-jailhouse tattoos — you realize that he was put on the earth to be a fucking rock star. Even without hearing the inspired, arresting sounds emanating from his funky-looking, custom-made nine-string guitar, the fact is undeniable.

Once the mutton-chopped visage is audibly coupled to the hair-raising Motor-Sabbath destruction of Pike’s Bay Area power trio High on Fire, the slack-jawed showgoer becomes aware of something headbangingly transcendent transpiring before their very eyes. High on Fire first made waves with 2005’s Blessed Black Wings, which was produced by the legendary Steve Albini. Though the participation of the Chicagoan iconoclast served as a journalistic hook that landed the band, gills gasping, into the critical fishing boat, it was the relentlessly powerful riffs that kept music writers and ticket buyers interested when 2007’s Death is this Communion came around.

Momentum continued to build in the ensuing years, and the group’s incendiary live shows and the broad appeal of their fury saw them added to tours of increasingly high profile, culminating in a national run in support of Mastodon and Adult Swim cartoon-metallers Dethklok in late 2009. The stage is set for High on Fire’s forthcoming Snakes for the Divine (due in early February), which Pike promises will be extremely heavy (surprise, surprise), and replete with nods to classic influences like late-70’s Judas Priest. Bassist Jeff Matz (formerly of beloved hardcore outfit Zeke) is shouldering additional songwriting responsibilities this time around, which is sure to expand and abet the trio’s hard-charging sound.

Before forming High on Fire, Pike played in legendary local stoner metal outfit Sleep, whose much-debated, endlessly recast magnum opus Dopesmoker/Jerusalem consisted of one 60-minute track, much to the consternation of their record label. Rumors swirl in the deep of a Sleep reunion tour, in the wake of one-off East Coast festival gigs, so if your more bong-graspy friends raise one or even two eyebrows in eager anticipation, that might well be why. This news, when added to the promise of a new offering from Pike’s current band, marks an auspicious beginning to a fresh decade, ripe for defilement.

Shredification is a monthly expedition into the world of heavy music led by San Francisco Bay Guardian and Bay Bridged writer Ben Richardson. Combining album reviews, news, and general commentary, it uses the power of forgotten heathen rituals to surreptitiously devour your soul. Ben can be reached at