Pike vs The Automaton by Matt PikeRelease date: February 18, 2022
Label: MNRK Heavy
Pike vs The Automaton, Matt Pike’s solo debut, is him against the world, Pike against the soulless machine, the Automaton. From the start it’s a thunderous homage to the riff, a promise that he’s not going to be taken quietly. Superficially it sounds like business as usual for Matt Pike, with his trademark roar over some fabulously sludgey guitar work. Opener ‘Abusive’ certainly sets this tone: it’s a full-on metal attack and wouldn’t sound out of place on an album by High on Fire, Matt’s day job. The glorious ‘Throat Cobra’, besides winning the prize for best song title of 2022, barrels along in full Motörhead mode, with a melodic riff underpinning some great rumbling bass work. I have often thought in the past that Matt Pike’s work would be the logical result if Lemmy hadn’t declared ‘we play rock and roll’ but instead said ‘we play metal’.
But dig a little deeper and the foot comes off the accelerator and this allows a little more breadth in the sound of the album. It moves away from being bludgeoning metal to having, at times, a more stoner vibe, such as on the crushingly heavy ‘Trapped in a Midcave’ and the dense ‘Alien Slut Mum’. In contrast, the mid-paced ‘Apollyon’ is a murky, psych-rock trip into a nightmare, with tortured vocals and a teasing, trippy guitar line that would fit well onto a Monster Magnet album.
Throughout there’s an air of experimentation, the press release mentioning David Lee Roth-type melodies and Michael Schenker solos as an inspiration, and there are all sorts of styles on display, all wrapped up in sludgey sound that reminds us who we’re listening to. The biggest surprise is ‘Land’ which is a hazy, acoustic camp-fire jam session featuring Mastodon’s Brent Hinds: two rock legends just chilling and playing some slide guitar. Details are vague in the press materials, but there’s a guest vocalist in the studio for the track that marks the other end of the mellow–frenzied spectrum, ‘Acid Test Zone’. It owes more to Converge than the Scorpions, an aggression-fuelled hardcore attack with very suitable guest vocals to boot.
Pike vs The Automaton sounds like Matt Pike had a lot of fun making this album. It’s not as serious or intense as a High on Fire outing. There’s all sorts of artistic expression on show, and is evidently both a musical and emotional release, a response to the pandemic and other world events. The combination of metal, stoner rock and psych, all mixed into the trademark sludge that we know from Matt’s other work, go together to make a very enjoyable listen.