Howls of Ebb - Cursus ImpasseThere’s a lot of pent up anger and frustration going around these days. Whether that certain something bothering you is serious like the weather or banal as your governing politicians spewing hatred, it’s always nice to be able to turn to metal in search of some escapism. To find a way out. A portal to a safe space. A wonderful soundtrack for hollow and bitter soliloquies. You might think, at first, that San Francisco’s ex-trio, now duo, Howls of Ebb provide exactly that with their experimentally tinged blackened death adorned with dark and threatening atmospheres and hints of aggression. Yet, you’ll soon learn that there’s something deviously different waiting on the other side. Their music, image, presence, and themes are all dichotomous, trapped in a circle of arduous, meticulous method, devilish caprices, and metal burlesque. A band of satyrs dancing and making mischief in some hellish microcosm, having fun while you suffer.

Instead of going back to the meaty, relatively straightforward sound found on their first record, 2014’s Vigils of the 3rd Eye, Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Wovs follows in the footsteps of their expansive, explorative 2015 EP The Marrow Veil and moves even farther away from anything resembling conventional blackened death metal. No one sounds quite like them. Aside from certain segments that implement traditional metal phrases and progressions, such as the introductory galloping, romping, and stomping “The 6h Octopul’th Grin,” they generally dwell in sonic areas populated by jangly, dangling guitars and syncopated polyrhythms that call to mind post-punk more than death metal. Over these rhythms punctuated by amorphous bass lines float clean guitars with dissonant wails and squeaky leads that deconstruct rather than lead the pieces. The vocals are slurred through hushed growls while they move among the convenient syllabic arrangements, approaching glossolalia. From the gloriously macabre cover by Agostino Arrivabene, over the lyrics that oscillate between complete absurdity and semblances of sense, to the the music itself – the album as a whole offers a confusing yet deeply rewarding experience.

After the first two raw and fast tracks, the aforementioned “The 6th Octopul’th Grin” and the raging standout “Cabals of Molder,” the record drops into a psychedelic lull with “Maat Mons’ Fume.” The longest song on the album rolls restlessly but slowly at first, moody and heavy in an unexpected, demented way. Darkness bleeds in bouts, alternates with the sonic equivalent of Mephistophelian cackle, and carves out a piece that is simultaneously layered and simple. The subsequent tune, “7 Ascetic Cinders, 8 Dowries of gA’nOm,” continues with the slow tempo, swinging like a drunkard. It developes both into a liturgy and a deviant prayer by the time the guitar becomes a siren and lurches into an uproar. These two songs are also the most compositionally intricate, unrelentingly evolving pieces. Still, Howls of Ebb’s approach never veers too much into the chaotic or complex. Even when, after the short acoustic interlude “Gaunt Vertigo,” they come back to faster tunes and disjointed hyper rhythms or as they close the record with the sparse but fierce “The Apocryphalic Wick.” As far as negatives are concerned, there’s a sense of fragmentation and unfinishedness to some of the tracks and the album in its entirety, almost like the band wasn’t sure how to combine and connect the material they created. A minor nuisance and nothing that would impede enjoyment.

Howls of Ebb 2016

Having lost a member, bassist bE9-bLigHt, following last year’s release, bass duties have been taken over by vocalist and guitarist zELeVthaND aka Zee-Luuuvft-Huund, whilst RoTn’kbLisK aka Roteen’ Blisssss continues his reign on the drums. There’s no doubt: Zee-Luuuvft-Huund’s “vibrations, low auras, polysyllabic morbid mysticisms” are masterful and Roteen’ Blisssss’ mastery of “cadence of limp and duress, bronze aura” is exquisite. The album is thus performed with aplomb and enshrined in a trance inducing, psychotically calibrated, and pus-excreting production1, which nuances all the instruments and even gives plenty of emphasis to the bass, an instrument that we often find buried in the mix of (non-technical) death metal releases. Did I mention that everything about the band is just a tiny bit tongue-in-cheek?

Be as it may, Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows is no joke. A neatly crafted, nicely executed record that is among the most enjoyable I’ve heard this year. Still, there’s much potential bubbling under the surface of Howls of Ebb. Seeing as they’re already so accomplished, one has to be excited to hear where they’ll take us next.

Rating: Great
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
Releases Worldwide: April 15th, 2016

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  1. paraphrasing this gem
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  • As evidence that not all “Angry Metal Readers” drink the AMG Kool-Aid, this sounds absolutely terrible to me. To each his own, but wow, I do not like this at all.

    • Paul Stella II

      Would you mind elaborating on why you think it sounds terrible?

    • I didn’t care for it either. The vocals buried everything else in the mix and weren’t particularly good. Most of the guitar lines sound like they weren’t played on purpose.
      These flaws bring to mind Sigh’s lesser moments. Everyone loves the hell out of Sigh (I think they’re just ok) so maybe this is just me not liking this style.

      • Angel of Deaf

        Maybe you just don’t like to have fun…

      • Roquentin

        The loose, wiggly guitar lines and the harrowing, buried vocals are a major part of the album’s appeal for me. I’m pretty sure it’s all quite intentional.

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    Well, I love it.

    • Diego Molero

      Of course you do, you are a member of the band, right? DddduUUrrR DdDddduuuRrrr

  • Monsterth Goatom

    That lantern is well hung. Is this what the Grateful Dead meant when they sang “Turn on your Lovelight”?

    • Name’s Dalton

      I just spat out my coffee. Thank you.

    • sir_c

      Be careful before turning off the light, cos once you go black…

  • Diego Molero

    Wtf with the members names? Are you serious with that?

  • Kronos

    Is that a fucking metriorhynchid in the background of that techno video?

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Yea, I was thinking Eoneustes bathonicus.

      • Kronos

        Not with that broad of a snout you weren’t.

    • Roquentin

      You obviously don’t have a clue about techno or you wouldn’t be asking that question.

      • Kronos

        I don’t know anything about techno.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Is that Jennifer Aniston in that techno video? Is that either a very young Rick Moranis or Lewis Skolnick from “Revenge of the Nerds” in that techno video?

      • Roquentin

        Christina Applegate and David Burke.

  • Tom Hardy

    Cool review. There’s a fellow Aussie on here who’s has been waiting for this review and album to drop.

    • Roquentin

      Why thank you. Coming from one of the coolest actors in Hollywood right now, it means a lot!

  • Pimpolho

    GrrrreeeeattttttTtT rRreeeeecCCC0000orrd6

  • Jonny

    You should check out Deviant process’ new release ‘Paroxysm’
    Good shit.

  • Brother Ben

    If I am watching x files, the embedded track becomes “Cabals of Mulder”

    • Roquentin

      The final of the new episodes was shit and I don’t wanna think about it. :-(

      • Brother Ben

        I only watched the reboot pilot, which I thought was ok, but I wasn’t enthralled. I’ve conceded that my life will consist of keeping the first 6 seasons on repeat with brief intermissions for bathroom breaks, food, and sacrificing stray animals in supplication to the elder gods so that they will once again inspire Chris Carter as they once did. And perhaps resurrect Kim Manners.

        • basenjibrian

          The problem with his rant is that he just regurgitated every single right and left wing loony conspiracy theory from the Intertubes. X Files was great ten years ago…now this kind of stuff is promoted by nuts who sincerely believe that Obama is hiding Muslims in derelict Walmarts or that 911 was an inside job by The Joos.

          • Brother Ben

            Haha I was once lectured by a man about how wal mart is really China taking over America, and that to shop there is to worship theor pagan gods. X files hasn’t done anything real interesting in terms of its main story for nearly 20 years imo

      • Tom Hardy

        I agree, what a piece of shit this new season was. It was like taking a dump on the story line from the 10 seasons they had from before.

        • Roquentin

          There were a couple of cool episodes, though. “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” specifically.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    All I could think about while listening to this was “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen. I’m not sure yet if I’m not worthy of seeing the suit or if the Emperor is naked.

  • AngryMetalBird

    ok, I’m hooked (wipes out credit card)

  • Grymm

    First listen, this is… different.