ALBUM REVIEW: High On Fire - Cometh The Storm

ALBUM REVIEW: High On Fire - Cometh The Storm

California stoner-thrash act High On Fire have been delivering a smoke-filled haze of brutal riffs and gritty vocals for over twenty five years. Formed off the break-up of legendary stoner metal band Sleep, the band wanted to go heavier and harder then Sleep with their sound. They made an impact with their 2000 debut album The Art of Self Defense. Over twenty years later, the band will release their ninth album Cometh The Storm on MNRK Heavy. With a six-year hiatus between releases, did High On Fire deliver a storm that decimated our eardrums and made the wait worth it?

The album opens with "Lambsbread". With a gritty, grungy opening guitar riff, the band starts off heavy and soaked in thrash metal. Vocalist Matt Pike's gravely, almost Lemmy-like vocals, have so much punch in the production. Coady Willis' drums have so much reverb, you feel it with every drum strike. Especially on his building drums section before the halfway mark of the song. Bassist Jeff Matz' bass tone is so deep in the mix, adding to the distortion and sludgy sound of Pike's guitar tone. I like the percussion, with a Middle Eastern, stoner feeling bridge section after the halfway mark. Willis' drums begin to bring the track back into an intricate guitar solo by Pike. The song returns to the tribal-like percussion piece, before dropping it to end the opening track on a pummeling final note. "Burning Down" has that trademark stoner/sludge metal opening feedback wall and fuzz-pedal guitar tone. Willis' arena-rock drums build the song, as Pike and Matz lead the chugging rhythm section. Pike has that deep, gravelly, bass heavy vocals that fit the grungy, sludge-heavy sound of the track. Matz' peaking bass, add a pulsing heartbeat. A great, wailing guitar solo by Pike at the halfway mark continues the classic High On Fire sound. Infusing the traditional stoner/doom metal sound, with a thrashy hybrid in the guitar solo. With driving drums by Willis, the song is just a slow burn, instant headbanger of a track. On "Trismegistus", the thrash opening and pounding drums instantly kick the track off with a one-two punch. Pike's vocals have more power in the mix. I'm not sure if he's layered or if there is vocal effects, but it sound more unhinged and has more gusto in it's delivery. The riff has an almost classic heavy metal sound, but way grittier and lower tuned, but I love that tone in this genre. With Willis' drums behind it, every strike adds more emphasis on the ringing guitars and bass by Pike and Matz. Showing that, with the right mix and production, a three member band can sound so loud and booming. I LOVE the closing drum fills and guitars at the end. So much force and aggression, with the riff just nasty sounding and an instant pit mover when that part kicks in.  

The album's title track starts with booming drums by Willis. We get Pike delivering some "almost" clean vocals amidst the drumming. The build of the track, with the drumming and light rising guitar and bass, echoes into an atmospheric vocal and ringing guitar combo. With a unique mixture of the band's thrash/stoner sound & a post-metal Neurosis like combination, its diverse and something different so far with the album. It works with the tone and aura of the track. A definitely slow headbanger of a track. The pummeling double bass at the halfway mark, pounds the speakers as it segues into the guitar solo. An impressive guitar solo. Very atmospheric and emotional playing, right into Pike's trademark gravelly scream. Potentially one of my new favorite songs from the band. We get an instrumental "Karanlik Yol". With beautiful acoustic guitars and simple percussion, the song definitely is very international in it's sound. Instantly channeling a Middle-Eastern area of the world like India in its play style and sound. With it's clapping, upbeat playing and clap along percussion. Accompanied by a deep groovy bass by Matz. The song becomes grander in scale as the song continues, with layers of strings adding more depth and filling the space of the mix.

We return to the heaviness on "Sol's Golden Curse". Matz's gurgling bass rings hard on the track amidst the unique playing of Pike. The combo of Matz' drums and Willis' drums are just so dominant on the track, adding such heft and weight in the song. Heavy, stoner, doom and sludgy all in one song and done so well. One of my favorite tracks off of the album. Following that is the track "The Beating". Instantly gives me a feel of "Devilution" from Blessed Black Wings in it's aggressive, Motörhead like sound in the opening riff and pounding drums. I can picture the pit going INSANE during this track. High-intensity drums and an earworm guitar riff, the song is just an instant banger and stank-face inducing track. Especially with the guitar solo, I instantly get that classic Motörhead feel. "Tough Guy" opens with a chugging, heavy, palm muted riff, accompanied by Pike's guttural screams and Willis' thundering drums. Matz creates a pounding bass riff underneath the chugging. Creating an almost counter melody in a way. With pounding drums behind him, Pike's vocals becoming almost unhinged and incomprehensible in the delivery. Another great solo by Pike as the song heads towards the close as it begins to fade out.

"Lighting Beard" opens with another trademark Pike scream and relentless drum fills. Intense and commanding in the riff and vocals, the song is just demanding and aggressive in the band's performance. I like Matz' high bass playing in the song, popping through at certain parts, especially during Pike's guitar solo. Adding a groove, while also accenting the solo at the same time. All while Willis is just going full drum solo behind the track and pounding through every drum and cymbal he strikes. "Hunting Shadows" has a nice, sludge-heavy opening riff. The track has a Mastodon-esque feel to the track, with Pike's vocals sounding very similar to Troy Sanders. Matz' bass again shines in certain moments of the song, almost taking lead over the riff at some parts. Pike sounds DEAD-ON like Lemmy on the track. I love Pike's clean, gritty vocals on the track, flexing his range to fit the more melodic sound of the song. A more, straight-forward heavy metal track with some melody in it, which the band pulls off really well. The album closes with "Darker Fleece". Opening with a feedback wall, before an opening drone/stoner metal rising riff shows up. It is a very ominous opening with vocals distorted in the background. The vocals rising and fading as the guitar wails rise and ring with heavy distortion, soaked in chorus and reverb. The band joins in with the slow chugging and pounding drums of Willis. The cavernous vocals of Pike, with his gravelly bellows and screams, mixed with Willis' drums, builds a feeling of dread in a unknowing miasma of distorted guitars. A very sludge metal heavy track with the simplicity, but with brutally heavy riff and pounding drums with accompanying bass. It is a low and slow brutal closing track to one hell of a comeback record for the band.

Cometh The Storm is a PUMMELING and brutal record. A grand return for this legendary stoner thrash act. With the band playing around with melody, unique instrumentation, and sheer heaviness. This is a strong record and a contender, for me, for one of the best albums of 2024. Pike and company delivered a great record, with every band member truly showcased. Pike's impressive guitar solos and trademark gritty vocals, Matz' rhythmic bass and groove throughout, and Willis' thundering power, shows the band's ability to know when to let each member shine. I LOVE this record and is an amazing follow-up to the band's last album Electric Messiah in 2018. A great and epic return-to-form. Showing that after twenty years, High On Fire are still burning strong and the world is about to get ready for one hell of a storm with this record.

SCORE: 10 / 10

1) Lambsbread

2) Burning Down

3) Trismegistus

4) Cometh The Storm

5) Karanlik Yol

6) Sol's Golden Curse

7) The Beating

8) Tough Guy

9) Lighting Beard

10) Hunting Shadows

11) Darker Fleece

FFO: Mastodon, Sleep, Motörhead

The band is currently planning a North American tour in May with a European summer tour planned starting in June. If you would like to pre-order the new album or any of the band's work or some merch, check out the band's Bandcamp HERE .

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