By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 29/4/2013
Label: Relapse Records
“Bloodlines” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1) Attrition 3:15
2) Midnight Eyes 4:14
3) Demonic 3:29
4) One Last Nail 3:06
5) Down So Low 3:29
6) Your Hell Begins 4:58
7) With A Blade 5:22
8) Of War 3:00
9) The Mouth Of Madness 4:29
10) Embrace Your Nerve 4:44
Howl are listed on Wikipedia as doom metal, but there is much more going on here than that as first track “Attrition” indicates. It is most certainly metal, most certainly with the sense of drama and foreboding that that the best doom has, but the band play deftly and are rather more fleet of foot that you might imagine given their Wikipedia page description. There are Mastodon-like elements here too, both in the arrangements and playing. “Midnight Eyes” keeps the energy and pace quite high, while “Demonic” is closer to Testament's thrash album of the same name than it is to anything in the Sabbath canon.
There is lovely guitar work throughout as two guitars make use of harmony, solos and riff interplay. The tempos are varied and the songs well constructed with bridges, choruses, breakdowns and any other trick you can think of. The vocals, though guttural in parts, are always intelligible and this adds to the listening experience. They are also mixed up front so you can really hear what is going on- it is refreshing to hear a band with confidence in their vocals in this sub/sub-genre.
“One Last Nail” continues the high bar set early on with excellent chugging riffs and lead guitar work. “Down So Low” starts ominously and with a Type O-esque vibe. The track represents the closest to the true doom sound of the album up to this point. The pace and groove stay locked down allowing the track to breathe and take on its own life. A tempo shift comes around the half way point, but doesn't outstay its welcome and leads into a well thought out guitar solo.
The pace of “Your Hell Begins” is positively rampant and kicks off the second half of the record in keen style. Again, the harmony guitar work and subtle pace changes stop this from becoming needlessly aggressive and thus highlights the affinity the material may have with doom even when not operating in that particular genre specifically.
“With A Blade” starts with the kind of groove riff that Pantera would have been very proud of. The verse that follows an unusual riff- keeping things unpredictable and fresh. The band plays superbly here, making the track flow well even with the tempo shifts and rhythmic nuances. A very melancholic doom section hits the listener around two minutes from the end, which in turn gives us a chugging crawl that Crowbar would be happy with. Immense!
The almost Maiden vibe of the initial riff opening “Of War” gives way to straight forward metal in the verse and lead breaks in between. Further twists and turns follow- the track crams a lot into its three minutes. The penultimate track “The Mouth of Madness” builds from a down beat start into a rather despairing track- again, doom rears up here. “Embrace Your Nerve” starts slow and takes the album into melancholy territory again before a Mastodon type verse takes over with time changes taking place under the vocals (a neat trick that appears on the album).
If you are looking for ten tracks of superior metal, incorporating doom, trad, modern southern styles and more- don't hesitate to pick this one up. Good band, great album.
“Bloodlines” is available here.