High On Fire- Cometh The Storm (Album Review)

April 19, 2024


Share This Review


Connect with High On Fire


Listen to High On Fire

High On Fire has been incredibly consistent over the course of their twenty-six-year history, as whether you’re listening to their rawer albums from the early 2000s or more recent output there have been plenty of great riffs to draw you back.  This year’s Cometh The Storm brings one of the band’s biggest changes in years due to a personnel change, as long-time drummer Des Kensel departed in 2019 and Big Business/Melvins drummer Coady Willis joined in 2021.  A change of this type can be a big deal for a trio, but album number nine finds High On Fire doing what they do best while also bringing some new surprises with it.

Some of the group’s material has leaned a bit more towards the stoner rock side of the aisle, but I’ve always enjoyed High On Fire at their heaviest where the worlds of sludge, doom, and stoner metal combine in a dense wall of lumbering grooves that thump you right in the chest.  With this in mind, Cometh The Storm makes an immediate impression as opener “Lambsbread” doubles down on the intensity with extremely heavy instrumentation that provides plenty of twists and turns as it moves between up-tempo and mid-tempo grooves.  Around the three-and-a-half-minute mark the first surprise the band has up their sleeves appears, as the song transitions over to a softer Middle Eastern inspired passage for a brief period of time before shifting back to the heaviness.  This approach is also utilized on interlude “Karanl​ı​k Yol” later on the album, and it helps to break things up and give High On Fire a bit more variation than is sometimes normal for their material.  Given Sleep bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros’ exploration of Middle Eastern textures with Om, it’s interesting that Matt Pike would end up on a similar path years later.  Where some High On Fire albums have felt a bit too uniform in their songwriting, Cometh The Storm switches up tempos frequently and has a lot more tracks with their own identity which really makes a difference.  Whether it’s the faster tempo and aggressive angle of “Lightning Beard”, the more rock ‘n roll feel of “Hunting Shadows”, or the slow burn of the title track, there’s a lot to like about what the band has done here and Coady Willis brings some new energy to the material.  Admittedly closer “Darker Fleece” feels just a tad too long at almost ten minutes, but length has been a common complaint of mine for High On Fire’s last few releases.

Matt Pike’s gruff singing/screaming pitch is instantly recognizable, and his pitch has only seemed to get deeper and more aggressive as the band has progressed.  The intensity only seems to have been amped up further on Cometh The Storm, with songs like “Trismegistus” showcasing just how gnarly Pike sounds.  Kurt Ballou once again produced for High On Fire, and he’s done a great job of making the vocals tower over the recording and have that extra oomph without drowning out the rest of the band.  The majority of the album has some subtle variations in pitch that help keep things from becoming repetitive, but it’s not until “Hunting Shadows” where listeners get something truly different.  On this track Pike lightens up a bit and uses some mellower ranges that add to the rock feel.  It’s not quite as subdued as “The Cave” from Luminiferous, but it does shake things up enough to stand out during repeat listens.

For me, High On Fire albums tend to fall somewhere between great and incredible, and that made for high expectations going into Cometh The Storm especially considering the lineup change.  Having spent the past week or so with the album, it’s clear that the material here falls into the latter category as not only are there plenty of incredible riffs and vocal lines but the Middle Eastern flourishes makes for something a little bit different.  Long-running bands like this sometimes seem like they’re on auto-pilot, but High On Fire only seems to be getting better and better.  Cometh The Storm is available from MNRK Heavy.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg