Drummer Des Kensel of High On FireHigh On Fire drummer Des Kensel remembers the moment he and his bandmates first hooked up with radical engineer Steve Albini. “He asked us if there were any weird ideas or experimental things we wanted to work with. We told him, ‘Not really. We just want it to be raw and have it sound like us.'”

You certainly can’t blame them. On the Bay Area trio’s third album, Blessed Black Wings (Relapse), mammoth riffs and gargantuan grooves reign supreme, while Kensel wages a furiously heavy and constantly catchy assault with his Pearl maple kit. “I used to play a five-piece with a double kick pedal,” the drummer says, “but now I play a four-piece with a single pedal. My style has progressed.”

During the trio’s latest studio sessions, Albini didn’t mess too much with Kensel’s approach. But he did capture what’s best about it – with carefully chosen and placed microphones. The band would play live in the studio, and after Albini determined what frequencies needed to stand out, he picked mic’s accordingly. “He’s a scientist in that way,” Kensel notes. Albini, however, did inspire Kensel to get somewhat experimental on the album’s final track, “Sons Of Thunder.” According to Kensel, “Those huge fills were inspired by a big hippie drum circle.”