Even though always seems that I’m a fair ways behind on reviewing new releases, I can’t help but call attention to one of my favourite releases from last year before moving on. It’s continued to stay in heavy rotation and will probably remain there for a long time to come.
The fact is that there are only so many of those top-shelf, genre-defining albums from the early years when “extreme” metal first sprung forth from the abyss. Even as great as they are, there are only so many times that one can listen to them before it becomes necessary to lay them to rest again. If like me, you find yourself wishing that there could have been more, you’re also probably underwhelmed by the number of pale imitations and hollow reproductions that have come forward through the years. The Howling Wind hail the spirit and greatness of that bygone golden age but the question is, are they able to hit the mark?
Before revealing the answer, it’s important to understand that it would be a grave injustice to say that The Howling Wind is off on some sort of nostalgia trip. In fact, that’s not the case here at all. It’s true to say that the co-creators of Tim Call (Aldebaran, Sempiternal Dusk, Weregoat) and Ryan Lipynsky (Unearthly Trance, Serpentine Path, ex-Thralldom) have a very solid historical perspective on their craft, but they make the most of it without folly, hyperbole, or pandering in the slightest degree.
The ceremonies begin with the opening of “The Seal Upon The Tomb” which sets a tone of utmost menace and serves as fair warning for what’s yet to come. Following close on it’s heels is “Beast Of The Sea” which tears right in with an absolutely colossal riff before breaking the chain, laying waste to everything in it’s path. While there are standout moments over the course of the entire album, Of Babalon is an amazingly well-balanced effort and kicks ass from start to finish.
The magik in The Howling Wind is that instead of relying on their creative influences and using them for inspiration, they demonstrate insight – a deeper, more fundamental understanding of that which came before them and how it relates to their own creative vision. The difference is clear and present in the end result. Rather than using inspiration as a foundation, it is insight which allows The Howling Wind to create their own individual contribution and extend the lineage of greatness that inspired them in the first place.
Of Babalon is deeply infused with the essence of the classics. It’s all been done faithfully, skillfully and if the question is have The Howling Wind hit the mark here? The answer is, “You’re fucking right they have”.