The Howling Wind
posted on 9/2012 By:
American black metal.
Yeah, it was a scoffed-at term not long ago, back in the dark days when Profanatica, WInd of the Black Mountains, and Thornspawn were the only Stateside strugglers that graced the ink-smudged Charmin Ultra section of Metal Maniacs. But in 2012, we're faced with a glut of killer black metal acts from the lower forty-eight. (Hawaii, step your game up.)
And I'm not talking about that flaky "Cascadian" stuff that was all the rage yesterday; that's basically our Norsecore. No, the reason why American black metal is taking charge is because the best bands have managed to adhere to the hallowed aesthetic without sacrificing the ability to, you know, fuckin' rock. Woe. Wolvhammer. Ashencult. Inquisition. Absu. Nachtmystium managed to relocate their stroke on Silencing Machine, and even the isolationist entity Odz Manouk deals almost exclusively in hard-driving, neck-snapping riffs. It doesn't matter if the intended audience is a sardine-canned nightclub or a lonely lifehater dwelling in his grandma's basement: American riff-mongers have this thing down.
With Of Babalon, The Howling Wind (un)comfortably joins these ranks.
Now, that's not to say that 2010's Into The Cryosphere didn't make an impression. Packed with as many churning, gnarled riffs as it was references to, well, being cold (the seven songs contained the following words in their titles: frigid, frost, avalanche, ice, and...wait for it...icy), it was the kind of record that served as an insight into their potential, rather than a claimstake to dominance.
Of Babalon isn't quite that, either, but multi-instrumentalist Ryan Lipinsky (Unearthly Trance, Serpentine Path) seems to have taken the heroics crafted on the last album's compressed highlight, "Ice Cracking in the Abyss," and liberally applied them to an entire album.
The result is definitely more heated than Into The Cryosphere, as Lipinsky shakes his black-ish tarcore (think Tombs) vibe from frozen shackles and lets it morph into magma. Of Babalon is punctuated with bombastic bass tone ("Graal"), swirling guitarwork that recalls Drudkh back when they had balls ("Scaling The Walls"), and pissed-off naildowns like the deliberate "Abominations and Filth."
As such, Of Babalon's sound comes across as -- dare it be said -- more American. As an album, Of Babalon is still less of a profound statement than an exploration on a theme, but The Howling Wind sounds much more grounded when freed from the self-imposed shackles of being the Immortal from Mount St. Helens. The looseness of these compositions -- the lively, pseudo-spontaneous soloing, the wild basslines -- gives them the human element that pulses through the best current black metal bands. Of Babalon isn't The Howling Wind's defining moment, but it certainly sets the stage for one.
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