Album review: High On Fire – Cometh The Storm

Masters of the feral riff High On Fire return in full beast mode with their best album in years…

Album review: High On Fire – Cometh The Storm
Nick Ruskell

The awesome thing about High On Fire is what, at its heart, is awesome about rock music itself. As much as the songs, what they’re really about is the overpowering thrill of being blasted in the face with the noise of a loud, loud, loud guitar. They are for the Beavis & Butt-Head in us, Otto the bus driver if he had a band. If our onomatopoeia could rightfully be applied to one band, High On Fire are it – Kerrannnnng!.

Almost a quarter of a century since they arrived with The Art Of Self Defense in 2000, Cometh The Storm happily also finds High On Fire hitting the creative and energetic height they can manage when they’re at their best. Matt Pike’s riffs haven’t sounded this fresh and full of life since Snakes For The Divine, nor have they sounded quite so much like you’re actually sat next to his amp as it deafens you.

Opener Lambsbread is a monster, all power and thunder, hammering away irresistibly on a winding groove, while Burning Down’s insistent rhythms – courtesy of excellent new drummer Coady Willis, fearsomely filling the enormous shoes of longtime skinsman Dez Kensel – could bash a hole in a mountain. Trismegistus’ solo is Tony Iommi back in the Stone Age, The Beating is all punky speed and aggression, Tough Guy is elephantine metal par excellence. All of it is sweatily hammered out, dirt and grease everywhere, as heavy and as loud and as feral as two Motörheads playing side by side.

As ever, the testosterone and spit is matched by a dirty genius and deep trench of creativity. Still nobody constructs riffs quite the same as they do, even if references to Sabbath and Celtic Frost loom large. On Karanlık Yol, bassist Jeff Matz leads with expertly played Turkish saz, an instrument he actually became a proper student of in order to master it. Matt’s themes of storm clouds brewing over the world – nuclear war being something talked about casually rather than with fear, for example – are far more articulate than has oft been recognised.

Even when they’ve not quite exploded as devastatingly as they can, High On Fire have always been a welcome treat for those who want rock music in its loudest, most roaring and most physical-sounding form, like it’s been actually carved out of stone, or forged in a blacksmith’s furnace. But when they stampede at you like this, when you can hear their blood pumping and smell their breath, there are few bands on Earth who can match them.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Metallica, Celtic Frost, Mastodon

Cometh The Storm is out now via MNRK

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