Howl – EP …   Leave a comment

Well, I actually encountered Howl via Stonerobixxx, back when they first put out their full-length début, “Full of Hell.” Being pretty much an almost-total stranger to the genres involved at the time, I had dismissed it out of hand, using a variety of derogatory terms for it. A little time and more data acquisition in terms of music later, I grew accustomed to the whole stoner/sludge thing, and returned to Howl. I will review both their EP and their full-length, and this, is the first step.

The main Howl sound is death metal influenced, frenetic riffing mixed with pounding, in-your-face, wild-and-out-there drums to thunderous bass, thick slabs of riffs, howling and growling vocals. But the drums, oh man, they are easily the best part of this album. There are also subtle heavy and trash metal influences obvious throughout, which are mixed in with the whole stoner/sludge vibe.

The three-track EP kicks off with “And the Gnawing”, which starts off with energetic drumming and follows that up with high-speed slabs of the main riff around which the song is built. Brutal, hard and harsh, they carry it on until they hit a bridge and the tempo just slows to a brilliant, black-hue crawl before picking it up with a grand finish that also features a trash-style solo embellishing it. Furthermore, it’s very, very comfortable if you’re familiar with Doommantia. It’s such a track that I got stuck right here for weeks on end, wondering, “How the hell are they gonna top that!?”

Well, they topped it with the second track, “Oma.” Tour-de-force, it is. Thing is, the transition into “Oma” is so smooth and the opening riff of the song is so very like the one that made appearances in “And the Gnawing,” that they flow together, like they were one song broken into two parts (a feat they will repeat in their full-length.) Anyway, “Oma,” interesting enough, follows the same structure as the first one, but is vastly different. It starts out with this fast-and-hard riff and they just start pounding us over the head with it, before moving onto even faster, even harder, sludge-like territories. It shifts and changes, with thick passages punctuated with exceptional drumming before slowing it down a notch or two, gradually lessening the pace and moving towards doomier waters. The two solos contained within this song are incredible, groovy and ear-food-like. The quirky end where cymbal hits punctuate shrieks and screams gives me goosebumps every time.

The three-track hell-hammer abuse comes to a close with “Kings that Steal.” It follows the trend that every hard-hitting, sludge-influenced album must have this groovy, playful riff in that one song. Never you mind how playful it is, though, because the heavier-than-heavy riffs keep on coming. The band displays their skill as fully as they did on all the other songs, with impressive riffing, breakdown-ish sludge passages complimenting the more rapid-fire, trash-influenced riffing and the pace of the song changing. It starts out pretty tame, grows faster and faster until it slows down and starts to crawl, right before picking it up and delivering another salvo of riffs and alternating between the technical passages and heavier ones. It’s brilliant!

So, what’s offered here? Well, except for one killer death metal/sludge/doom mixture with incredible drumming and easily recognizable “Howl air,” not much. The production is, interesting enough, crystal-clear and there is no lo-fi static or noise (at least, none that the band doesn’t want us to hear) and the album is comfortable to those familiar with this site (or the genres this site, or I, often mention.) It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but Howl’s greatest strength is that they don’t have to – they are far beyond the wheel already. Trust me on this when I say this is just the beginning, and it’s worthy of your attention, multiple listens, a place on your shelf and… yeah, it’s really good. So good, in fact, it gets a 9.5/10, easy (the 0.5 point comes off due to the band’s vague air. It can sometimes fly over your head if you’re not paying attention.)

Review Written By Sarp Esin

Howl @ Facebook
Howl @ Relapse Records

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Posted June 19, 2011 by doommantia in Howl

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