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More Than Just A Pretty Picture - 85%

CHAIRTHROWER, May 4th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, Digital, Independent

Indiana's solo helmed Ice Howl - once known as equally chill moniker of Tundra Vibrations - has foregone frosty cries, this time around, favouring, on what transpires today as its fourth full-length album, a sexennial, half-hour instrumental exercise in hazily grooving sweet somethings titled Erhan's Quest, available digitally and on limited edition, snowbound CDs.

Handling lion, or moose's, share of vital instrumentation, from languidly churning, albeit steadily ascending, bass and guitar ruminations of a wizardly crafted, not-so-catatonic order, to festively staggered, chunky drums which vary like hues and skin markings of a hallucinogenic frog, is long-time every-man Jason Roach (formerly of Thorr-Axe). Inordinately, this is my first sampling of the Bloomington based, Hoosier mainstay; as such, haven't experienced his so-called mantric chants, yet the way these six lofty songs surrender from one to next, whilst taking listener on relaxing, at times, downwind and coasting, voyages of sonic translucence, suggests a silent work expressing much more than any token lyrics could achieve.

"Erhan's Quest (The Journey Begins)" would've made fine instrumental opener among regular, past styled forays i.e. with said stoner-type vocals. However, here, it transpires as gradual beast mount of a slowly channelled and immersive, doom prototype conditioner, whereas successor-in-tusks "Midnight Shaman" alters both tone and sonic palette, making plump, liberal use of bass, whilst increasing tempo by means of celeritous, The Sword evoking shuffle and zip-zapping pentatonic kicks of both a smoky, down-home nature and outer-spatial countenance. From here on in, Ice Howl takes us on a unicorn riddled, celestial trip along bluesy pastures graced by lighter side of known doom inclinations.

In other, not-so-magically thought out words, Ice Howl leans closer towards rockier fringes of the doom/stoner metal movement, with wholesome, grinding rhythms similar to Belgium's Fire Down Below and aforementioned The Sword - particularly latter's Gods of the Earth and Warp Riders offerings. Fans of fellow locals Wolftooth will also take penumbral flight to these arrangements, notably during LP's middle superiority of cuts, whilst entire phantasmagorical lot is brought together to sound of crunchy and harmonious Sun flight (as opposed to Earth flight) closer "Our Journey's End". An atmospheric and elusive guitar lead lends air of finality before abruptly breaking into strangely conducive synth-wave excursion, at the last minute, thus jolting us off our amiably cruising storm clouds, forever.

Hence, Ice Howl's Ehran's Quest proves a bit of a departure from past forays; only time (like William) will tell if it's but a phase, or Jason has set bar for rest of eternity...