84. High on Fire, 'Blessed Black Wings' (2005)
Hailed by Dave Grohl as "the most brutal metal album I've heard in years" upon its release in 2005, High on Fire's third full-length marked a major step forward for Sleep frontman Matt Pike's stoner/sludge spinoff. The involvement of former Melvins/Sunn O))) bassist Joe Preston (on what would be his only album with High on Fire) and Steve Albini (whose mid-range–y production gave Des Kensel's pummeling drums a serious tribal/industrial whomp) was certainly part of the equation: "We wanted a little more of a live, upfront, in-your-face sound, instead of like we're playing in a canyon with a big low-end rumble," Pike told the East Bay Express in 2005. But the album also found Pike pushing himself further as a guitarist, vocalist and lyricist, especially on tracks like Lovecraft-influenced "The Face of Oblivion," the Motörhead-indebted "Cometh Down Hessian" and the epic "Crossing the Bridge," which was far more self-analytical than your usual stoner fare. "I was going through really weird times when I was wandering around homeless and on a drunk binge," Pike reflected at the time. "I just felt like I had fallen, and when I say [on 'Crossing the Bridge'] 'The warrior's chains are self-inflicted,' well, that's me keeping myself down." D.E.