Drama and over-the-top expression are almost expected in heavy metal. Some of the greats—your King Diamond, your Mercyful Fate, your Iron Maiden—went above and beyond to add passion and theatricality to their music, and they became legends for it. At the same time, if you go too far, you’re going to lose people.
Howls of Ebb are one of the modern bands adding many emotional, cinematic dashes to their work. You don’t just put on one of their records and zone out. You have no choice but to engage with them, and if their target is a little off the mark for you (or a lot), chances are digestion will be impossible. The San Francisco-based death/black metal hybrid might take some getting used to at first. Or if you’re like me, the moment you sink your teeth into their music, you find yourself a willing passenger on their morose journey. On their brand new MLP “The Marrow Veil,” the band bookends their piece with two epics that sound like nothing else you will hear in extreme metal, as well as one eerie passage that acts as a segue between doses of madness. Another weird personal note for me: My first experience listening to this EP wad during a driving rainstorm. My last trip with this before writing my piece on it? You guessed it. Driving rainstorm. Perfect setting for taking in this insanity.
On top of the unique expressions the band creates, they also identify themselves and their duties in ways that will make you scratch your head. Zelevthand is responsible for vibrations, polysyllabic mysticism, and synthetic magikx; Benign Blight is charged with 5th dimensional undertows; while Rotn Bliss is credited with cadence of limp, duress, and bronze winds. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what means what here, but hey, it’s a fun quirk to an already out-there band. “The Marrow Veil” is the first thing the band has released since their challenging debut album “Vigils of the 3rd Eye,” but this one takes matters even further and surely will provide plenty of bizarre punishment and misdirection.
“Standing on Bedlam, Burning in Bliss” starts oddly enough, with chilling dialog and the music spilling out of that feeling absolutely freezing. In fact, the first several minutes of the 19:45 song completely fuck with you. The pace crawls like an earthworm, with odd, buried howls adding to the sense you are being frozen to death. Now and again, a spark of ferocity will surge forward, only to be sucked back into the vortex. And then it happens. The tempo explodes, swaggering riffs maul you to and fro, and the fierce, forceful growls do the storyteller/epitaph reader mode ideally. The guitars pierce and jab at the ribs, while the rest of the track floods your mind with morbidity. Suddenly, everything slips back into its shell again, but you know an attack is coming on the other side. Sure enough, it hits, with weirdly jazzy soloing and a panicked assault from an assailant that knows it better finish you off lest you walk away able to breathe its name to any other living being.
“Dusks Tyrannical Love” is a quick one, running just 2:28 and acting a perfect bridge to the final act. Here, hushed, tornadic sounds and eerie speaking swallow any sense of sanity. Noises sting your ears and help to build your anxiety, spilling nicely into finale “Iron Laurels, Woven in Rust.” The drama remains thick and penetrating, as the band works to eat away at any inhibitions you have left, unleashing strange, cavernous noises. The track lurches along, feeling a bit like a Deathspell Omega track for a time, taking on weird and suffocating ambiance. Out of a pit of groans comes a jerking, dissonant assault that smears and confounds, with the monstrous growls stymieing all sense and the ugly music churning. There is hypnotic, spacey interplay, with melodies looping and the band heading into some of the heaviest thrashing on the record. There also are progressive tendencies, with the bass feeling rubbery and strong soloing working alongside. Drone hum takes over for a stretch, while all forces rise back up, things blaze anew, and all of the warped magic disappears down the drain toward from the hell where it originated.
Yeah, it stands to reason that this band isn’t for everyone. Howls of Ebb likely aren’t trying to lure in everyone, though, and would be perfectly content to sicken the minds of those who embrace their hellish underworld. “The Marrow Veil” is the type of effort that sticks with you, hauntingly so, making it tough to comprehend your worldview afterward. The band also is a refreshing beacon of creativity in a world often lacking it, and their future sojourns are ones we will anticipate with great curiosity and wonder.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/howlsofebb
To buy either album, go here: http://www.i-voidhanger.com/mailorder.htm
For more on the label, go here: http://www.i-voidhanger.com/