Howl Make Strides (Just Not Very Big Ones) on Bloodlines
On 2010’s Full of Hell, Providence-based sludge metal quintet Howl introduced the world to their brand of riffy and versatile stoner doom. The album was, overall, a success, and garnered the band a certain amount of deserved acclaim. But while in many ways interesting and entertaining, Full of Hell was what it was and didn’t seem to transcend its initial release; it came out, and people dug it, and that was that. It was a straightforward cool metal album. Now, with their sophomore effort Bloodlines, Howl take their sound further, experimenting with new tempos, atmospheres, and lyrical themes, all the while producing a similar album — interesting, likeable, worth a few listens, but overall rather plain.
Openers “Attrition” and “Midnight Eyes” are solid tracks, the former a mid-paced chugger and the latter a slightly more speedy and evil anthem. The band’s use of fuzzy distortion and groaning, melodic guitar leads is complimented by a clearer, more gruff vocal approach than that of the last record. The next two songs are solid, though a little forgettable; it’s not until “Down So Low,” with its Monotheist-era Celtic Frost vocal stylings, the frantic “Your Hell Begins,” and the weighty Southern-tinged “With A Blade” that the album really takes off, giving the listener a solid mix of brawny modern-day stoner rock and creeping unhinged doom. “Of War” and “The Mouth of Madness” have some large, swinging chops to them as well, while closer “Embrace Your Nerve” sounds like business as usual. The band’s music and lyrics definitely sound different from those on Full Of Hell, but not by too much — this is a definite continuation of the band’s sound, but not too much of an expansion.
Like bands such as Saviours, Howl formed during the great post-Mastodon boom of riffy semi-progressive doom metal, and have managed to survive with their own definitive sound. However, like many other bands of this period, they are somewhat meat-and-potatoes, and this is exemplified on Bloodlines. While fans of Lamb of God and Kylesa should definitely look into the album, they are advised to know what they’re in for, and not expect much other than that.
Howl’s Bloodlines comes out April 30 on Relapse. You can listen to the track “Attrition” here and pre-order the album here.