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Album Review : High on Fire: Cometh The Storm.

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Review by Pete Finn for MPM

High on Fire is an American heavy metal band formed in Oakland, California in 1998. The band was founded by vocalist and guitarist Matt Pike, who had previously been a member of the influential stoner metal band Sleep.

The current lineup also includes bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Coady Willis, who is making his debut recording with the band. Known for their intense, aggressive sound and powerful live performances, High on Fire has released eight studio albums to date, including critically acclaimed releases such as ‘Blessed Black Wings’ and ‘Luminiferous,’ and including a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 2019 for their song ‘Electric Messiah.’ With fiercely energetic riffs and ferocious vocals, and lyrics that often delve into themes of mythology, fantasy, and social commentary, adding depth and complexity to their music High on Fire has established themselves as one of the leading bands in the contemporary metal scene.

Released on April 19th 2024 via MNRK Heavy, ‘Cometh The Storm’ delivers a haul of 11-songs with an impressive running time of 58-minutes. High on Fire recorded ‘Cometh The Storm’ in the heart of “Witch City” at GodCity Studio in Salem, Massachusetts with producer Kurt Ballou.

The heavy riff and hard beat opens the album and introduces ‘Lambsbread’. The buzz of distortion and Matt Pike’s chanted lyrics grab the senses as do Jeff Matz’s slack strings. The tempo rises and falls into a mid-section instrumental that spins and batters, before closing out leaving you wanting more. It’s addictive.

The first single released from the album is ‘Burning Down’, it has a real stoner feel, Pike’s vocal nudging unclean hard-core. The beats and driving riff carries razor sharp metal solos. The pounding blows delivered by Willis and Matz have the head nodding unconsciously, an intricate Pike bridge joins the powerful groove.

Up next is ‘Trismegistus’, which from the Greek language means ‘Thrice-greatest’, and is used to identify the Greek god Hermes. The aural bombardment is raining down from the start. Pike is passionate and angry as he unleashes his vocals. The riffs and beats are seismic in their delivery. Over the top sits a slicing solo. The senses are being pummelled breathless.

Now, it’s time for the title-track ‘Cometh The Storm’. Willis starts the track moving, the pace is more measured. Pike’s lyrics are almost narrated, the riffs are liked caged lions bristling to get out, then through a hurricane of fuzz and distortion they do, appearing as a fierce Pike solo. The pace is slowed by Matz as he bend and slaps the bass strings.

‘Karanlık Yol’ is an instrumental that is an amazing contrast to the previous tracks. Translated from Turkish it means ‘Dark way’ or ‘Dark path’. During the time between recording albums, Jeff Matz travelled abroad to study and learn the techniques of Middle Eastern folk music and the plucked string instrument, the bağlama (or saz). The result is ‘Karanlık Yol’, an interpretation of traditional Turkish folk music, it also shows the enormous talents within the band.

The stoner sound returns with ‘Sol’s Golden Curse’, it starts steadily and is rock hard. Pike is screaming the lyrics, a marching battle-cry, the rhythm is infectious. The track plays out with a solo that grabs you, as it twists and spins like a crocodile death roll.

It’s an aptly brutal start to ‘The Beating’, a 2½ minute blast of punk beats with thunderous lyrics. Matz and Willis must be destroying their kit. The mid-section rhythm has more than a subtle nod in Motorhead’s direction. I smile, as following ‘The Beating’, the next track is ‘Tough Guy’. A huge riff is followed by Pike’s wrenching guttural scream. The chugging riff is shaking everything as Pike screams the words, he lets his fingers take over for a solo that covers all the dirty bits of the fret board. But it’s the immense riff that binds everything together.

‘Lightning Beard’ opens with an electric riff, Matz and Willis have everything turned up to eleven, the pace is relentless, the energy is off the scale. Pike’s solo is up there with the Metal Gods, his lyrics are delivered with fire.

The pace throttles back slightly for ‘Hunting Shadows’. Matt Pike’s vocal has a Lemmy-esque tone, and it’s sounding good. Matz is spanking his bass like the great man too. This track has swagger and a fistful of attitude, being gruff and dirty. Coady Willis’ powers the track on, the solo keeps you wanting more. My track of the album.

The final track is the 10-minute epic ‘Darker Fleece’. A hum of feedback, a slow distorted Sabbath like riff, a salvo of Willis’ beats, then Pike’s vocal starts with blood curdling menace. It’s slow and deliberate. The rhythm section blasts a route for Pike’s solo to carve it’s way through the wall of sound. It’s epic in length and epic in stature, a fitting way to close the album.

‘Cometh the Storm’ is bone shatteringly good, it’s brutal in its delivery, full of power, poise, and kick-ass metal. Jeff Matz is quoted as saying, “We’ve always tried to create uncompromising music that feels good to us, and is in line with what we would want to listen to.” If ‘Cometh the Storm’ is a representation of what the band listens to, then send me that playlist now. If you can’t wait for the next record, then High on Fire will be playing five UK dates from 14th June to 18th June 2024.

High on Fire are:
Matt Pike: guitar, vocals
Jeff Matz: bass, guitar, bağlama, mellotron, percussion
Coady Willis: drums, percussion, vocals

High on Fire online:
https://www.facebook.com/highonfire
https://twitter.com/HighonFireBand
https://www.instagram.com/highonfireband
https://mnrkheavy.com

Pre-order/save High on Fire‘s Cometh the Storm here.

Photo Credit: James Rexroad

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