Howl
"Full of Hell"

(Relapse Records 2010)Howl - Full of Hell

It's funny, how some bands look exactly like what they sound like. You don't need to see one photo to picture the members of Howl in your mind's eye; just listening to "Full of Hell" paints the portrait for you. Denim, leather, a well-placed bullet belt, with beards all around (minus guitarist Andrea Black, thankfully). Wait a sec, don't get scared off by the facial hair, this Rhode Island quartet is no ironic hipster collective "inspired" by the success of Mastodon. This is, as the band themselves put it, "bong-rippin' labyrinth metal!"

There is a distinct Mastodon flavor ("Remission"-style, of course) simmering throughout "Full of Hell," but Howl have a bit more cohesive groove than the Mastodudes did at the same point in their career. "Heavenless" positively swings, with sly guitar trills and subtle lead work inflecting its brawny, towering gallop. That's just one of the nine battering rams that Black and fellow axemaster Vincent Hausman ram down your throat; they roll riffs like boulders falling on more boulders to create chunks of super-dense boulders. Now back to the subject of things looking like they sound, Hausman also lends his voice, and see that skull belching fire on the album cover? It might as well be that crazy revenant handling the vocals. The entire conflagration is backed by the driving war-thump of Timmy St. Amour, whose drum work here wouldn't be out of place at the rear of a mounted column raiding an enemy encampment.

"Full of Hell"'s power is in its primal, unremitting ferocity. There is not one moment of letup on the album, from "Horns of Steel"'s tone-setting fiery bombast until the earth-shaking "The Day of Rest" ends, leaving only solitary notes to hang like the cries of the wounded in the air. This is the soundtrack to a hundred crazed barbarians gnawing at raw, bloody meat marinated in whiskey and demon piss. And you better believe that horde is going to cover themselves in the ashes of a spent bonfire and ride forth to pillage...but not before ripping some epic bong hits.

A-

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