High On Fire – Cometh the Storm (MNRK Heavy)

Wednesday, 24th April 2024
Rating: 9 / 10

Nuclear war, natural disasters, population unrest, the storm inches its’ way closer to doom humanity than ever before. And what better band to provide the soundtrack than High on Fire with their latest opus, Cometh the Storm? After a significant line-up change which saw founding drummer of 21 years Desmond Kensel leave the band, Coady Willis (Melvins, Big Business, Murder City Devils) assumes the throne and delivers punishing thunder. Which is good news for a band that’s still going strong for 26 years and counting. Matt Pike still has a lot to say, and a fuckton of riffs to drive home the point.

“Lambsbread” storms out of the gate with Coady’s propulsive drumming and Pike’s gravelly roar as he wields his sonic axe, keeping his title as the riff child intact. Jeff Matz then brings his increasing interest in Turkish folk music to the mid-section to great effect, a left turn that doesn’t feel forced and a misstep. You immediately get the feeling that this isn’t the High on Fire you’re used to, proof that you can still teach old dogs new tricks. “Burning Down”, the lead single with the godawful AI video (what was the band thinking?!), is an incendiary mid-tempo track about governments that do nothing to stop the planet’s destruction (which is the last zany thing Pike has sung about) and features one of Pike’s most searing solos ever. “Trismegistus” continues the assault as Pike sings about Egyptian mythology atop searing riffs and tectonic pounding, Willis bringing his own distinct style to replace Kensel’s amazing but predictable drum patterns.

“Cometh the Storm” is a career high for HoF, as it’s the most apocalyptic the band has ever sounded, which is no easy task for a band known to always deliver tunes that sound like harbingers of Armageddon. The song features an insane solo that would sound otherworldly live via Matt Pike’s wall of amps a.k.a. Tonehenge. “Karanlik Yol”, which is Turkish for Dark Path, fully fleshes out Jeff Matz’ bağlama skills which he dutifully studied in previous years. It’s one of those rare instances where an instrumental track is an actual highlight of the record and not a filler. One can’t help but clap along to the music, shawarma and labneh optional. “Sol’s Golden Curse” is a tricky sabbath-y song pulled off perfectly, while the one-two punch of “The Beating” and “Tough Guy” effectively brings the ruckus, Coady Willis proving he’s a versatile skinsman whether on mid-tempo beatdowns and straight-up punk/thrash lashings. “Lightning Beard”, Pike’s ode to his El Camino, is classic HoF scorcher material, whereas “Hunting Shadows” is a deeply personal track for the Shirtless One, not unlike Luminiferous‘ “The Cave”, but not as memorable as the former. “Darker Fleece” closes the record with a titanic riff that trudges on for nine minutes without losing any impact towards the end.

It’s a daunting task to make essential records well into a band’s quarter-century existence, but with High on Fire, you know you’re going to get smoking, scorching albums every time, rolling papers sold separately.

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