Though Matt Pike’s recent entrance into rehab might’ve put somewhat of a negative spin on 2012, this has been a year of high regard for his legacy and esteemed acknowledgment of his musical contributions. The singer-guitarist of High On Fire and former axe man for sonic titans, Sleep, released a new album this year (High On Fire’s excellent, De Vermis Mysteriis) and has had two reissues put out by Southern Lord: Sleep’s landmark album Dopesmoker and The Art Of Self Defense, High On Fire’s very celebrated first album.

Released in 2000 by the defunct Man’s Ruin Records, The Art Of Self Defense followed Sleep’s demise, breaking somewhat from the Sabbath-borne, blues metal trudge and cranking up the brawn a tad. With Pike’s roots well established in the smoky pits of THC-laced stoner metal, High On Fire’s aggro-sludge could be seen as a progression of the Sleep dynamic, Pike’s signature tone awoken by primal metallic ruggedness and percussive battery. The buzzing distortion that introduces the album’s first song “Baghdad,” could almost be taken as a momentary retrace of Pike’s previous band, the track then launching into a steady and super saturated rhythmic grind of crash cymbal and thudding low end, cementing this then-new identity concerned with dialing it up and immersing listeners in its tone.

From then on, songs like “10,000 Years,” with George Rice’s very sleek and chunky bass groove and “Blood From Zion,” which boasts a serpentine of downward ooze you could drown in, follow suit, eruptions of crunchy, sonic dismay providing Pike the perfect backdrop for his grating throat. “Last” is more of a drum track, drummer Des Kensel given the opportunity to really beat shit up. “Fireface” strides with heavy Sabbath-ian swagger, a blues-based low-end leading the song’s intro. “Master Of Fists,” which originally ended the album’s six-track length, is about 10 minutes and ends in a fury of whirling drum thuds, sonically grim riffs and jammed out guitar solos that almost sound spontaneous. The Art Of Self Defense begins with a buzz and ends in thunder, generating a mire of amplified, riff-laden energy that never lets up. Any band would wish as powerful and monumental an introduction.

For the reissue, Southern Lord is releasing The Art Of Self Defense as a double LP with a 20-page booklet and as a CD digipak with a 48-page booklet. Extras include two tracks from a 7” High On Fire released in 2001, which features a cover of Celtic Frost’s “The Usurper.” Also included are three demo versions of “Blood From Zion,” “10,000 Years” and “Master Of Fists.”