(Wil Cifer offers some first impressions of the new album by San Francisco’s Howls of Ebb.)
After reviewing the metal released thus far in 2015, I’ve come to the conclusion that today’s metal seems all too often to play it too safe, sticking to the safe confines of the genre, after blackening it up a bit. So a band like Howls of Ebb is welcomed relief, as they are not afraid to refrain from sounding like every other band who wants to be Incantation.
With only three songs, it’s hard to call this an album and not an EP, but my rule of thumb is anything longer than Reign In Blood is an album.
I am not a fan of twenty-minute songs, but these guys are able to occupy the space in “Standing On Bedlam, Burning In Bliss”. They kick in with a more psychedelic fury that ebbs down at the three-minute mark. They linger in the awkward silence of whispers, making the silence as confrontational as a band like Mr. Bungle might.
It takes a good three minutes for them to kick back into the metal. They don’t blast off into it, but rather take an evil-sounding, creeping groove that gradually stomps back into place. The mix is as weird as the music they are crafting. They employ some of the typical metal tools like chugging, but it is turned upside-down and inside-out when given their interpretation.
The song gathers drive and momentum, but it’s layered in a spaghetti-western ambiance, as if Ennio Morricone were scoring a movie about an acid trip in hell. At the twelve-and-a-half minute mark it collapses into whispering again; this time the whispers come from the bass. They churn back into more of their surreal take on death metal. The vocals are a dry, mid-range rasp that are at the forefront of this album.
After this dissonant epic the two-and-a-half-minute “Dusks Tyrannical Lore” serves as more of an interlude between the two longer works.
“Iron Laurels, Woven In Rust” is a few steps closer to a more conventional metal direction. When the song gathers steam it sounds like a swarm of insects about to attack. The dizzying sense of motion makes this song come across as heavier than a hundred down-tuned, crab-squatting deathcore bands.
The guitar soloist handles the fret boards like John Zorn mistreats his sax.When the band take a breather around the ten-minute mark, they then build the song back up in a chaotic whirlwind.
There is a chance that when this album is over you might find yourself wondering what the hell you just heard, depending upon how stoned you are. It will take a few more listens and a half-dozen more bong hits to come to a conclusion. However, stone cold sober, I did come to conclude that I need more of these sprawling soundtracks. This is a follow-up to their debut full-length and proves that their savage creative juices continue to boil.
The Marrow Veil is scheduled for release by I, Voidhanger on September 7, 2015. It will be available as a 12″ MLP on black vinyl, with a full-color insert. The cover painting was created by Wiley Trieff.