Thursday, June 17, 2010

Howl: Full of Hell (2010) Review

Howl is a Rhode Island sludge metal band. Their debut full-length Full of Hell caught my attention when I heard it on the Relapse Records Podcast.

On a tangent now--What is it with sludge metal bands and female guitarists? Well, maybe Kylesa and Howl isn't enough to call it a trend, but it is unusual.

Back to the subject at hand. First thing I noticed about the album is the awesome cover art. It's sort of a John Dyer Baizley style version of the cover of Mercyful Fate's Melissa (I don't know whether Baizley actually did the art, but it looks like his work). This is, I think, a good sign, indicating they want to acknowledge the old school but live in the present.

But we don't buy it for the art. We buy it for the sound, and a good sound it is. Anyone who thinks Remission is the best thing Mastodon ever recorded needs to go out and get this album right now. Not that Howl is a carbon copy. They do have a similar, heavy sludge sound with caveman howling vocals, and the drums are one of the most interesting parts of it. But there are differences. They seem more confident and cohesive than Mastodon did at that point in their career. Howl is also a lot less southern-sounding (as you might expect). But the most important difference is, Howl is much more about the riff than about being progressive. And the riffs are good.

It is a very good listen. There is nothing wasted (except perhaps on the album closer) and there are some excellent tracks here, most notably "Heavenless" and "The Scorpion's Last Sting".

The Verdict: For a debut album, Full of Hell is very impressive and entertaining. Certainly it's not perfect, but they are a band to watch out for in the future. I would expect Baroness to follow Mastodon out of the Relapse lineup due to their more mass appeal, but Howl seems more like the kind of band to stick around and stay underground. I give the album 3 out of 5 stars.

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