High On Fire- Cometh the Storm Album Review (w/ bonus d12 table of Barbarian Foe-Slaying Weapons!)

High On Fire is one of the most reliably awesome metal bands around. They're the long-lived project of Matt Pike, the guitar master of Sleep, worshiper of Lemmy and High Weedian priest of all things stoner, sludge and doom. Pike is a master of the crunchy riff, the transcendent arcane pulp fantasy lyric, the gruff orcish berserker growl and battlecry.

Cometh The Storm is the band's 9th record and one of their most cohesive. High On Fire always takes a different direction on each album, with their last, Electric Messiah, being a departure from the mid-tempo, crunchy sound in favor of a Motorhead and thrash-esque style. Messiah was not my bowl of weed, though I respect it. With Cometh The Storm, High On Fire is back with a rager of heavy, head-nodding riffs and horn-throwing solos. To me it sounds like a fusion of Blessed Black Wings and De Vermis Mysteriis, with a minor nod towards his bandmate Al Cisneros's OM's middle-eastern sound in the instrumental track Kiranlik Yol (which I wish had more prominent mellotron, but is excellently groovy and mysterious) and Egyptian occult references of the track Trismegistus. 

This album is their first without drummer Des Kensel, who I've always considered one of the most distinctive and powerful metal percussionists. His replacement, Coady Willis, is solid and mostly continues to represent Kensel's style. I saw him on tour as a substitute drummer with The Melvins as well as High On Fire and he's a respectable stand-in for Kensel's style. He was present for the entire writing period of this album, as Des left in 2018 after Electric Messiah, though those who don't know might not notice, in fact. I wonder if he will influence the band's sound more if he remains with them. Longtime bassist Jeff Matz plays some of his best and most melodic, thundering basslines on this album.

The primary tone of the album is an aggressive declaration of war and relentless momentum. This is music for Mad Max War Boys to ride to, for barbarian hordes to drive their enemies before them, and for chosen warriors to face the Elder Gods armed with an enchanted blade and a flame-filled heart. Fittingly, the album is strongest as a result of its opening tracks, with side A bringing a heavy trio of tracks that drive the momentum across the totality of the record. Though some tracks deviate a bit, such as Lightning Beard, which sounds like __ and Hunting Shadows, which has elements of mid-tempo Mastodon riffs and Motorhead-esque vocal delivery and begins to build the albums journey toward a resolution before crashing powerfully into the closer Darker Fleece after a droning bridge of feedback and fuzz, which conveys the tone of a final battle and bellow of triumph with somehow-even-lower-and-more-gruff vocals from Pike and a heraldic-sounding conclusion after the evil has been overcome.

This is some top-tier sludgy battle music. Listen loud and absorb the energy, and you will not go astray. 


Bonus Gameable Content: d12 Barbarian Foe-Slayer Weapons

All are brutal, none are magical, except perhaps in the primal and unknowable ways of the ancient tribes.


Barbarian Foe-Slayer Weapons


Blademace (d8+2 or d12+3 double-handed): A massive mace, composed of a dozen battle 

axe heads. Barely moveable single-handed. A critical hit mangles a limb or shreds an organ, 

save to resist.


Bindspike Spear (d8): Wickedly barbed, rusted iron. On a critical hit a target is impaled

 and a twist of the haft engages spring loaded harpoon spikes to bind it in the wound, 

automatically holding them in place.


Thunder Lizard Femur Greatclub (d10): Gigantic, petrified bone thick as the trunk 

of a young tree. A critical hit or roll of 10 on the damage die dazes the target, halving 

their movement and removing one of their attacks for the round (or the following round, 

if they’ve already attacked). Creatures with multiple attacks per round still get to make 

their other attacks.


Flamestone Greataxe (d12): A massive blade of chiseled flint on a haft of crude iron. 

Strikes against metal-armored foes create sparks for an additional 1d4 damage. 

A natural 1 breaks the blade, making it useless, but shards of the blade dig into the flesh 

of the target, inflicting a hit for d6 damage (no sparks).


Splinterbone Dagger (d4): Sharpened bone of a large venomous lizard, the marrow 

liquefied and infused with its saliva. They are good for only one hit, upon which 

they snap inside the wound, delivering a debilitating dose of convulsion-inducing 

poison. The more the victim moves, the quicker they are drained of strength, with a -1 

penalty for every 10’ of movement and every attack they make. Becoming docile 

recovers +1 point per round. 


Bloody Cestus (d4+1): Spiked gauntlet covering the forearm, gives a +1 bonus to Armor. 

Allows an extra attack against grappled opponents, and forces a save to avoid broken bones.


Stone Direflail (d10): A skull-sized chunk of chiseled rock attached to a hefty rope. 

Easily breaks down doors, fortifications, and shatters shields. 


Volt Thrower (d8): A crossbow of heavy wrought iron. Loosed bolts make a shrieking 

sound of metal on metal as they charge with a mass of electrical energy. +1d4 lightning 

damage. On a critical hit, stuns the target. Each successive use charges up energy in the 

mechanism, causing a failed attack roll to inflict 1d4 shock damage on the wielder as it 

discharges. A natural 1 causes it to melt and fuse together.


Craven Bonebow (d6): A shortbow of crudely mounted bones of cowards and traitors. 

Deals +2d6 damage to fleeing targets.  


Silvermaw (d6+1): A fanged silver prosthesis, worn in the mouth. Successful attacks 

tear the flesh and inflict terrible bleeding, slowing healing and scarring horridly. 

Dealing a killing blow to a creature forces a Morale check on creatures within 10’.


Golden Axe (execution only): An ornate, ceremonial double bladed axe of solid gold. 

The legends say that if wielded by a worthy king it can behead a god.


Trollhide Deathmask (d4 breath attack): The boiled and cured face of a dead troll, 

mounted on a helmet. Only the strongest may wear it, as its stench churns the stomach. 

Those mighty enough may unleash a torrent of flesh-burning bile from their mouth, dealing 

d4 damage in a 15’ straight line. Blood drank through the mouth of the mask activates the 

inert trollish healing abilities, granting 1HP to the wearer. This counts as a full-round 

action and may only be performed once per victim.




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