Stoner metal, moreso than other metal subgenres, stands and falls with the power of The Riff. Crushing, churning, buzzing like a particularly eloquent chainsaw, The Riff can lift a band out of stoner mediocrity and into the realms of the Gods. But a limp and forgetful riff will ensure the music passes through your head like a breath of wind through torn sails. Howling Giant play stoner metal. Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 is only their second four song EP, so they haven’t been around for very long yet. So do these Nashville greenhorns possess the power of The Riff?
The opener leaves little room for doubt. “Mothership” is carried on a larger than life riff plowing out of a particularly loud and fuzzy guitar. The lead carrying the song is an infectious second cousin to “The Wolfman Kindly Requests” by masters of the art Clutch. The production succeeds in creating a full, crushing sound. The guitar hits like a train and coupled with the more ethereal vocals the result rests comfortably somewhere between Electric Wizard and The Sword. The heavy distortion makes it difficult to properly appreciate a spacey master though, and the mix is not always spot-on; placing the guitars so high in the mix on “Mothership” that it drowns out some of the vocals and drums. The vocals have an edge of stylistic distortion in the higher frequencies, but it makes me wish they didn’t; the result is a bit unpleasant and a clean vocal track would have sounded better in counterweight to the instrumental fuzz.
All-in-all, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 is a solid EP from such a young band. They’ve already begun to carve out their own identity and they clearly have some good ideas. There will be at least two more Black Hole Space Wizard EP’s, so we have something of an episodic album to look forward to, which is fitting in the age of similarly portioned video games and cinematic universes. If they can keep up the level of quality on display here, this might just prove the beginning of a future force in fuzzy stoner rock.