High on Fire, “Cometh the Storm”

After a relatively long wait, Matt Pike’s sludge-metal outfit returns with their most adventurous, pigeonhole-smashing, and idiosyncratic release to date.

High on Fire, Cometh the Storm

After a relatively long wait, Matt Pike’s sludge-metal outfit returns with their most adventurous, pigeonhole-smashing, and idiosyncratic release to date.

Words: Kurt Orzeck

April 17, 2024

High on Fire
Cometh the Storm

When Matt Pike formed High on Fire in 1998 in the midst of his reign with stoner-metal royalty Sleep, he almost immediately assumed the throne to rule over sludge metal. Lacing the band’s songs with a mastery of the axe, erudite lyrics, and even more formidable songwriting, the band quickly garnered a reputation as the sludge subgenre’s apex predator. In the ensuing years, High on Fire released new material and toured so regularly that the trio also proved undeniably consistent—not exactly a term commonly applied to many perpetually stoned bands of High on Fire’s ilk.

Over the course of two decades, Pike and company released eight studio albums and didn’t let more than three years elapse between each of those releases. But after racking up a ridiculous number of accomplishments and accolades during that two-decade period, Pike, longtime bassist Jeff Matz (Mutoid Man, Zeke), and drummer Coady Willis (Melvins, Murder City Devils) effectively put High on Fire on the back burner. Their decision resulted in the longest stretch between the band’s studio albums since the riff-tastic crew coalesced in Oakland, leading some to wonder whether they’d reassemble for future recordings or tours.

But High on Fire have allayed those concerns by ultimately returning with this new studio record that—most uncharacteristic for the endeavor—was six years in the waiting. Named for Pike’s fascination with archaic terminology, esoterica, and (unfortunately) conspiracy theories, Cometh the Storm is hands down the most adventurous, pigeonhole-smashing, and idiosyncratic release that High on Fire have ever delivered. From all indications, the band’s six-year break between studio releases did their body of work good (h/t milk advertisements on TV). Listeners with an affinity for the band’s earliest material will find themselves drooling over the gnarly new record’s first four songs and a few subsequent, brilliantly executed tracks that throw back to their early days.

Even so, Pike is savvy enough not to give fans too much of what they want from past High on Fire records. One of the band’s strongest assets is their willingness to venture into territory where no heavy-metal band dared venture before. The trio does just that on the second half of Cometh the Storm, courtesy of a quick punk song (“The Beating”), an instrumental with sitar-like sounds (“Karanlık Yol”), and a few tight compositions resembling High on Fire’s more intense later-career records.

Incorporating such myriad songs supports the notion that High on Fire didn’t sit on their laurels during their break. It’s apparent they used the time to push themselves to the outer limits of what the boundary-breaking band is able to do. It’s a win-win for High on Fire, who have devoted too much of their live performances to their earliest material for far too long—and also for devotees hoping that High on Fire would take some risks with Cometh the Storm.