Pike Vs The Automaton - Pike Vs The Automaton review
|Band:||Pike Vs The Automaton|
|Album:||Pike Vs The Automaton|
|Release date:||February 2022|
02. Throat Cobra
03. Trapped In A Midcave
06. Alien Slut Mum
08. Acid Test Zone
09. Latin American Geological Formation
10. Leaving The Wars Of Woe
How does a Matt Pike solo album sound? Exactly like you would expect it to.
The pandemic has had many effects on the world of music; one of the more positive effects is how it has allowed the time for some musicians to finally work on 'pipe dream' projects, whether it be Matt Heafy and Ihsahn’s Ibaraki black metal project eventually getting off the ground, or musicians generally known for their output within bands branching out into solo ventures as a byproduct of lockdown-mandated distance from typical collaborators. Nick DiSalvo (Elder) and Esa Holopainen (Amorphis) both released records last year under solo artist monikers (Delving and Silver Lake, respectively), and now Matt Pike (High On Fire) has released the result of his own lockdown project, Pike Vs The Automaton.
This project found its genesis in garage jams Pike had during early lockdowns with friend and former Lord Dying drummer Jon Reid, and was brought to life on record by Billy Anderson, who has also produced material for Pike in the form of Sleep and High On Fire records. Pike also got other friends and family involved as guests, with High On Fire bandmate Jeff Matz playing the electric saz on “Leaving The Wars Of Woe”, Mastodon’s Brent Hinds featuring on “Land”, and Pike’s wife Alyssa Maucere-Pike delivering some nasty hardcore shrieks on uptempo cut “Acid Test Zone”.
One of the interesting insights projects such as these provide is the opportunity to see how the music of the artist’s main band differs from that produced when the same musician has full artistic control. In DiSalvo and Holopainen’s cases, both are main songwriters for their primary bands, so the overlap with the outputs of Delving and Silver Lake were substantial, but there were certain novel characteristics, such as the guest vocalists on Silver Lake By Esa Holopainen. In the case of Pike Vs The Automaton, Matt Pike is the founding member, guitarist, vocalist and primary songwriter for High On Fire, so one might wonder whether there would be a meaningful difference sound-wise between High On Fire and a Matt Pike solo project. Unsurprisingly, there is a very large degree of overlap between the two bands; there are a few moments or songs that reflect the freedom of Pike to delve wherever he wishes with full creative control, but for the most part, you’re getting the same aggression, same tones, same mixture of dirty sludge and thrashy speed as Pike unleashes in his other band.
“Abusive” gets Pike Vs The Automaton off and running in safe fashion, a rowdy brawler of an opening track that alternates between fast verses and dirty sludge choruses. Similarly driving and noisy cuts include “Alien Slut Mum” and the aforementioned “Acid Test Zone”, which crosses over from sludge and into hardcore territory. Revelling in the slower end of Pike’s repertoire are the likes of “Trapped In A Midcave”, a bluesy sludge/stoner jam, and “Apollyon”, a venomous, proggy trudge of a song that has a similar ‘evil march’ feel to some of High On Fire’s slower songs. The songs that are more unusual are the likes of “Throat Cobra”, which is typically fast but atypically melodic and ‘sad’ in the tones that it uses, and “Land”. An acoustic jam that serves as a tribute to country music Pike’s mother would listen to while he was growing up, “Land” has a slack energy to it that is only accentuated by hearing Hinds’s singing in the background.
As far as how Pike Vs The Automaton stacks up compared to regular High On Fire material, the answer is ‘fairly well’. There are aspects of it that do hint at the fact that it was a lockdown jam album, particularly with it’s over-an-hour runtime, and the production, while giving the guitars that signature fire, do see Pike’s vocals somewhat buried in the mix at times. On the flip side, there’s a lot of material here that should appeal to anyone who enjoy’s Pike’s guitar playing, with some very tasty riffs to be heard. My own favourite cut from Pike Vs The Automaton is “Leaving The Wars Of Woe”, an 11-minute beast with a similar energy to a song like Down’s “Bury Me In Smoke” in its plodding, dirty grooves and war drum-style percussion.
An instantly recognizable slab of Matt Pike bile under a new name, Pike Vs The Automaton doesn’t hold any real surprises, but is nonetheless satisfying and serves as a nice stop-gap until the next High On Fire record drops.
||Written on 20.02.2022 by|
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