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Hellkrallice - 90%

FullMetalAttorney, July 25th, 2013

The Howling Wind is a two-man black metal outfit. Given that the two members are based out of Portland, Oregon, and New York, it's a safe bet that they're not plying the trade of "pure kvlt black metal." Tellingly, their third full-length Of Babalon was recorded by Colin Marston. Yet I don't think it's fair to place them completely within the realm of what some call "hipster" black metal, either.

Starting at the end, you'll find a cover of Hellhammer's "Horus/Aggressor," and it's quite faithful to the Tom G. Warrior original. It's entirely possible they chose it purely because they're huge fans of Hellhammer. On the other hand, it could be a calculated decision, an effort to guide discussion and opinion on their little contribution to the USBM scene. Either way, I'll bite.

While you won't hear much of the Pacific Northwest here, the band is clearly not insulated from what's going on in Brooklyn. You'll hear it especially in the leads. There's even a major chord or two ("Scaling the Walls"). But they never fly completely off the handle into Krallice excess. Often, the rhythms are unremarkable black metal, and sometimes a bit more Brooklyn-esque, but other times they’re even more primitive ("Abominations and Filth"). It's as if they liked what they heard of the Brooklyn scene, but wanted to pare it down to a simpler, more immediate form--i.e., straight-forward song structures and good old fashioned black metal ugly. That's good news for anyone who loves both Hellhammer and Krallice, or can't get down with the latter because of its near impenetrability.

Sonically, Marston has done a fine job here. I had to turn up the volume a few clicks, but that was clearly due to a healthy respect for dynamic range rather than laziness on his part. The bass is perfectly audible, while the simple growled vocals (and one Warrior grunt) are never overpowering. The drums are especially pleasing, with a totally natural sound that eludes so many producers.

As a result of that blend of modern influence and classic songwriting, the record is one of the catchiest pieces of black metal I've heard in quite some time. As accessible as Watain, but as forward-thinking as any "art-rock" act in the genre. While some have attempted that synthesis before (e.g. Palace of Worms), it's never been done so well. Of Babalon is a fantastic album.

originally written for

The Howling Wind – Of Babalon - 80%

Asag_Asakku, August 10th, 2012

The relatively small American black metal realm has been shaken for some time by internal stylistic feuds. Growing popularity of iconoclastic bands (some would say “hipsters”), such as Wolves in the Throne Room, Liturgy or Bosse-de-Nage, is utterly displeasing defenders of the more traditional and aggressive United States black metal, also called USBM. However, these little Byzantine quarrels are not preventing certain groups to launch very good album, while staying true to their origins. This is evidenced by The Howling Wind with a flawless third album called Of Babalon. Resulting of a joint work of two experienced musicians (Tim Call on drums and Ryan Lipynsky on guitar and vocals) this reocrd manages to offer a pleasant synthesis American black metal, peppered with numerous references to most late 1980’s classics.

The main quality of this record is definitely its execution density, which jumps to the ears right from the start. In fact, no instrument really takes control over others, giving the listener an envelopment sensation. Beginning with The Seal Upon the Tomb, we are literally immersed in the purposely created album’s universe. The band develops strong and looping harmonic structures, sometimes grafted with solos or blasts. Note also the excellent song writing work of these Americans, who manage to differentiate each of their songs, while maintaining the same overall feeling. Listen, for example, a song like Grail, heavy and hard like a ton of bricks, or Scaling the Walls, with its melancholic atmosphere built on treble notes. Rest of the album is alike: we never get bored! This is a feat for orthodox black metal, a register known for its numerous ‘one-endlessy-repeated-riff’ albums.

Inspired by Hellhammer / Celtic Frost early albums for moods and rhythms (particularly evident on Choronzon), The Howling Wind released an excellent album, reminding me the work of such bands like Mgła. It’s also impressive to find out that a style so worn like orthodox black metal, once placed in talented musicians hands, can still be so good and creative. Of Babalon is undoubtedly one of the best U.S 2012 releases and I urge you to lend an ear on it. Now. 8/10

Originally written for Métal Obscur.