There are dozens of death metal bands these days taking the genre on long, strange trips into a world of atmospherics that are almost cinematic in scope. Instead of just simply growling and blasting away about all things dark and frightening, this new generation of bands wants to personally take you there, hand-in-hand, down the fiery slopes of humanity’s worst of everything. One band hell-bent on taking the nastiness of it all to eleven is San Francisco’s Howls of Ebb.
There’s something amiss in the Bay Area water these days. The same geographic region that once produced all of your favorite thrash bands is now, almost effortlessly, churning out some of the best death metal in the world. With their new opus, Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows, Howls of Ebb have joined the long, demonic parade of amazing Bay Area death metal albums that has graced our stereos over the last couple years.
From the opening blast of “The 6th Octopul’th Grin” it’s apparent that Howls of Ebb mean business, and if sordid aural explosions are their business, then business is good. However, while some of their wiliest moments come in the form of sonic hellfire reigning from the skies, this is not just 40+ minutes of bludgeoning madness. On the contrary, where Howls of Ebb truly excel is in the downright eerie passages of sinister atmospherics that permeate this entire album. What tracks like “Maat Mons’ Fume” or “7 Ascetic Cinders, 8 Dowries of gA’nOm,” for example, lack in overall speed and tenacity for most of their duration, they more than make up for it in their ability to set up a disturbing mood, built around an almost doom-like aesthetics. The latter of the two tracks even replete with a minimalist ambiance midway through that lulls you into a strange sense of false safety before the pummeling begins anew. It’s an altogether thrilling ride that feels almost dangerous at certain turns.
From sludgy, gritty guitars that break out into wild, animalistic histrionics, to vocals that sound like they’ve been scrapped from the back of Satan’s own throat, Howls of Ebb are able to convey in musical images a world gone terribly, terribly wrong. If their goal was to set out to create an album filled with music that feels as ritualistic as it does extreme, then mission accomplished a hundred times over. Fans of the extreme – from early Morbid Angel and their fellow Bay Area death-dealers, Vastum, to more esoteric acts like Ævangelist – will truly find something to appreciate on this record.
Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows is out now via the venerable I, Voidhanger Records. You can experience and purchase the album through the I, Voidhanger Bandcamp page.