Imagine for a moment that hip hop somehow bled into the metal scene. Imagine, if you will, that this development has nothing to do with E-Town Concrete or Insane Clown Posse. Imagine that the DJ/Producer was actually a live band. And, finally, imagine that the band plays some of the best black metal you have heard in recent memory. Well, Howls of Ebb, mostly thanks to their rapid, anunciated and viscious vocal delivery have achieved a sort of Bone Thungs N’ Harmony or Outkast level effect on their 2016 release Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows. An album so layered in rhythms from the standard black metal blast beats of the drum to the rushed, almost sped-up-as-if-on-another-turntable delivery of vocalist “Zee-Luuuvft-Huund” (Patrick Brown of Nepenthe & Ligeia) that it takes on a nearly African poly-rhythmic effect.
It seems like the new thing in black metal is experimentation and, while most bands do it well, few bands are likely to step outside the box to ride the fringes of the genre. Beginning with their second track, “Cabals of Molder” Howls of Ebb include a faltering, sludge riff that is as reminiscent of early Bleach-era Nirvana grunge rock as it is Meddle-era Pink Floyd. Yet, as the tinny guitars lurch their way forward, stumbling over everything in their path, the vocals add yet another nearly carnival layer of quickly spat lyrics while their guitars effect a distortion free version of American Nervosa-era Botch.
We would be remiss to not tackle the fully acoustic “Gaunt Vertigo.” Leading into “Subliminal Lock – A Precursor to Vengeance” the affectations of the acoustic guitar take on a near bowed quality thanks to production filters. The tracks essentially function as one, with the dissonant and mournful acoustic giving way to muted, chaotic electric guitars. The solo is filtered to sound like a hacksaw tearing through wrought iron. There’s a pattern here: these guys like effects.
Finally, “Ascetic Cinders, 8 Dowries of gA’nOm” is the band’s most sprawling work. Opening with foul utterances and slowly descending chromatically dissonant guitar lines, the track somehow takes on a groovy death metal vibe. The overall arc is one of winding down, the tracks slows and slows until it’s at a near crawl supported by howls as vicious as funeral doom. As their composition is wont to do, “Ascetic Cinders” is a complex, multi-layered and intricately woven work that finishes out on a vibe 180 degrees from where it started.
Much will be said of Howls of Ebb. Their album is not only experimentally reminiscent of Swallowed’s Lunarterial or Morbus Chron’s Sweven but it is also catchy, enrapturing and completely absorbing. Whether the album gets spin after spin will be up to the individual listener but, as far as music reviewers and purveryos of sound are concerned, Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows should provide more than enough genre-bending and blending to appease the most sadistic and pessimistic fan of black metal. Howls of Ebb provide a journey through global rhythms by way of black metal. It’s one tour that you must take.
Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows is available via Nuclear War Now! Productions (LP), I, Voidhanger (CD) and Caligari Records (Cassette). For more information on Howls of Ebb check out their Facebook page.