Big, raw and abrasive

The pandemic has driven some people to do insane things. Some drove their trucks into Ottawa. Some decided to invade Ukraine. Others just get a little stir crazy.

Sludge lord Matt Pike, holed up at home in the wilds of Oregon, unable to unleash his regular demons with his usual band(s), falls into the third group, and calling his first solo album Pike vs. The Automaton is his way of taking on the world.

Unrestrained by the musical boundaries of High on Fire or Sleep, for those wondering if Pike might step beyond those, the answer is both yes and no. Abusive steers Pike in familiar territory, high-gear Sabbathesque sludge with bleeding throat vocals that careers into frantic soloing and the enormous Trapped in a Midcave resonates with both Sleep’s epic doom and HOF’s riff-roaring carnage. It’s hardly unbroken ground, but it’s what we all know and love Matt Pike for – picking up a guitar and laying waste to everything around, a beast of pure instinct that knows true, battering heavy metal.

And that’s what Pike vs. The Automaton would amount to if he didn’t, in fact, go completely out of character here and there. Land is a sprawling, bluesy honkytonk with Brent Hinds from Mastodon dropping in to lay down some down-home slide guitar, Pike sounding like he’s echoing some vaguely distant childhood memory of Hank Williams. At the other end of the scale, there’s the scorching hardcore of Acid Test Zone with the seething vocals of wife Alyssa Maucere-Pike unleashing her own frustrations. Both tracks add a stylistic contrast to the album’s otherwise sludge-infested rifferama, a couple of cool detours on Pike’s journey of metal bombast.

Pike vs. The Automaton is big, raw and abrasive slabs of riffs and heavy metal thunder – Matt Pike doing what he does best, and a bit more.

1. Abusive
2. Throat Cobra
3. Lost in a Midcave
4. Epoxia
5. Land
6. Alien Slut Mum
7. Apollyon
8. Acid Test Zone
9. Latin American Geological Formation
10. Leaving the Wars of Woe