Howling Giant / Sergeant Thunderhoof – Turned to Stone Chapter 2: Masamune & Muramasa Review

Last year, I had the privilege of contributing a TYMHM review of Nashville stoner trio Howling Giant, with their album The Space Between Worlds. Jampacked with Torche worship and other catchy, fuzz-revering stoner metal greats, it distinguished itself with how it balanced impressive songwriting and performances with a fantastic sense of levity. While it’s hard to take stoner genres seriously in general,1 Howling Giant just sounds like three dudes at a jam session having the time of their lives, and that energy is infectious. Less than a year later, and we’re graced with a split! We don’t normally do splits, mainly because few of us are flexible enough, but resident gentleman and scholar Huck ‘n Roll pulled some serious strings to get this bad boy past our impenetrable Steel wall. Courtesy of Ripple Music, Turned to Stone, Chapter 2: Masamune & Muramasa2 sees Howling Giant enter the ring with Somerset quartet Sergeant Thunderhoof for an old-fashioned riff-off.

The names of each half indicate ancient Japanese blacksmiths who legendarily competed for the title of Japan’s most premier swordmaker. In true fashion, expect your loudmouth big boi and your military galloper to focus on their own swords: the riff. In true stoner metal fashion, we’ve got larger-than-life fuzzed out riffs, psychedelic textures, showstopping vocals, and an ear for melody and spaced out songwriting. Each partaker showcases their own take on the stoner genre, but who ultimately takes home the championship belt?

As evident on The Space Between Worlds, Howling Giant thrives in bursts of energy, shorter and more compact tracks, to showcase its punchier riffs, bottom-end bass noodling, and albeit limited vocal styles. As such, their contribution “Masamune” feels more like an EP than a single track—to their benefit. Consisting of four distinct movements separated by plucking between, their strength is their dynamic, opening up with a killer riff and moving seamlessly between passages of lush plucking and crushing leads. However, Sergeant Thunderhoof‘s take in “Muramasa” feels aptly more like a single track, exploring every nook and cranny within its sprawling fuzz with Wino-esque vocals and thunderous percussion. Its emphasis is the riff, and the riff prevails.

There is give and take to each half here. While Howling Giant‘s half may not contain the showstopping vocals or the depth of fuzz that their opponent may flaunt, their strength comes from endurance. Playing it safe puts them at an advantage, as they make a single track feel organic from movement to movement, feeling like the lushness of a (stoned) country walk, rather than the (stoned) trudge uphill that their opponent sports. While a single track feeling like an EP might not be the best it can say, the songwriting speaks for itself. That’s not to say that Sergeant Thunderhoof is blown out, you see. Rather, flashiness is the Englishmen’s forte. Featuring absolutely stunning vocals with amazing range alongside crushing riffs, their only sin is their songwriting—which often overstays its welcome at twenty-one minutes. While much of that twenty-one minutes is extremely solid, its bloated length compromises its integrity. Meanwhile, Howling Giant may be limited in its assets, but in playing it close to the vest, create the better half of Turned to Stone: Chapter 2.

The premise of the Turned to Stone series is a riff-off, and just as the Japanese swordsmiths, each participant exchanges stoner rock/metal interpretations like stoned katana swings in the ring, and that competitive edge is what makes this split so much fun. If we’re being technical, Howling Giant gives us the sturdier of the two tracks, prioritizing solid songwriting above all else, while Sergeant Thunderhoof throws in everything and the kitchen sink for a showstopping, if imperfect hit on ye olde blunt. Overall, because of its levity, it’s a fun foray that may not make it anywhere near your AOTY’s, but it’s a stoner wonderland worth exploring. As long as you bring something for the munchies.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 1,411 kbps WAV
Label: Ripple Music
Websites: howlinggiant.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/howlinggiantsergeantthunderhoof.bandcamp.comfacebook.com/sergeantthunderhoof
Releases Worldwide: July 31st, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. “GOD LUCK AND good speeeeeed.”
  2. Chapter 1 featured Mr. Bison and Spacetrucker.
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