Friday, April 25, 2014

Howls of Ebb - Vigils of the 3rd Eye [2014]

While its easy enough to acquire fresh daemonic goodness from today's extreme metal market without much trouble, a good many bands are often in lacking in any essence and won't endure your headphones for long. And while death metal has taken its form from a monstrous, brutal manifestation of thrash metal into a much more flatulent and subterranean form of music with the recent of convulsions of acts such as Antediluvian, Father Befouled, Dead Congregation and so forth, I rarely felt that any retro death metal act had the discomforting aesthetic put to good use. Maybe the genre's so suffused and crammed and that there's literally no more space for inserting new ideas? That may be so, but there are still groups out there who think otherwise. Some may have methodically adapted death metal merely as a current to express more expansive musical ideals, while some, adamant, have clung to the genre as a child grips his mother. I'm honestly not sure which category Howls of Ebb fit in; the band is both keen to reap the tumult and morbid appeal of death metal circa 1989-1993 and simultaneously capable of injecting fresh if not utterly novel sounds into the mix.

The first thing you want to know about ''Vigils of the 3rd Eye'': it's packed and unnerving. But that's not to say it's inaccessible. In fact despite the meticulously plotted semi-technical death metal riffing, pestilent, deep growls and the almost avantgarde oddity certain moments have, the album is strangely enjoyable, clear, and memorable. And what ''Vigils...'' essentially is a salutation to death metal in some of its bleakest modes, a creeping, granular assault of spasmodic black/death with so many queer anecdotes attached at random ends that at times it really does feel like an avantgarde death metal album, which is its beauty. This is some thrilling music, with features that wouldn't quite fit any of the band's antecedents... I doubt that Demilich's ''Nespithe'' didn't have a significant influence of the band members, but even so, the sporadic quality of the riffs, structures and veins make the album such an odd ball that it would be difficult to pinpoint direct influences. Perhaps Autopsy could have played some part, and early Death, and even some peculiar underground gems like Timeghoul which, in my humble opinion, aren't excavated enough when the topic is death metal, but there ends the line.

And even when we apprehend a certain portion of the riffs, a certain percentage still remains rather inhumated, as if refused to be dug up by human hands. Howls of Ebb basically use a lot of speedy, uncanny tremolo sequences, which, in turns, can be wild fun with their ambiguous trajectories, but there are also broader moments where chords stalk the listener like lean, stern demon statues gaping at tides of anguished human souls which would ultimately serve as nourishment. Yes, the album is that evil. And the fact the guitars balance the terror and profanity with almost comical, jiving riffs makes the fear penetrate doubly fast; and as if that wasn't fucking enough, you've got a myriad sequences where the band's ''limbonic'' tendencies seem to afloat a opiate sequence of emptiness with twinging chords being strummed lightly in the background, resonating. I mean fuck. This is the kind of stuff that's so nightmarish and cunning that would follow you into your dreams the way evil clowns follow little kids. There's a fairly important if not completely relevant worshiping of doom metal here, noticeable in some of the longer tracks like ''Illucid Illuminati of the Dark'' or ''Of Heel, Cyst and Lung'', - whose titles are devilishly ludicrous enough to give a few preliminary goosebumps - but you'd be glad to know that the band retain speed for the majority of the record.

In the end, if we take guitarist and frontman zEleFthANd's background and previous infatuation with groups bands such as Trillion Red or King Carnage, or the fact that the guy's been in the business of creating creepy, multi-dimensional death metal since the early 90's, it's not so shocking that he eventually converted enough material into a credible album. And, yeah, ''Vigils of the 3rd Eye'' is not perfect; like most records it has its flaws. For instance, I did find redundancy and repetition to be kicking during certain tracks, and sometimes the whole plot of stalling the listener before the big explosion got a bit trite, but the eventual achievement is ghastly and superb. Even the drums and the bass, which suffer some setbacks due to the sheer satanic panache and swerving shrewdness of the guitars, were nigh over excellent; and I'm not even mentioning the additional synthesizer effects that only enhance the gloom. Howls of Ebb mightn't have produced an all rounder here, but in terms of evilness, this is the best thing I've listened to since Cultes Des Ghoules' horrifying ''Henbane'', in 2013. Start making your reservations, folks, because hell's bound to be packed within the next month.

Martian Terrors, Limbonic Limbs
The Arc. The Vine. The Blight.
Vigils of the 3rd Eye

Rating: 87,5%

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