Howling Giant is a three-piece sludge and progressive metal band from Nashville, TN recommended for fans of Baroness, Mastodon, Elder, Melvins and Red Fang. Drummer Zach Wheeler says of the band name: “Howling Giant sounds a lot like a loud beast, which is what we strive to do musically. We aim to create a full sound that people might normally expect from a five-piece rather than a power-trio.” This new EP, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1, is the first in a concept EP series. Guitarist Tom Polzine explains, “We strive to conjure up space-themed imagery of heroes and villains at war, introducing the story and setting the scene of things to come within the Black Hole Space Wizard Universe. We’re not trying to spell out the entire story so much as we are creating scenes to provoke your imagination.” Bassist Roger Marks adds, “We are inspired by science fiction and occult rituals, as well as books, movies, and other music.”
Digging into the songs themselves, we have four tracks here that each have their own strengths and personalities. The reference points that most readily jumped out at me personally were Tool and Mastodon, with some Baroness thrown in for good measure. Both "Mothership" and "Exodus Earth" meld effects-laden, psychodelic progressive leads a la Adam Jones with huge, fuzzy sludge and stoner doom chords. Specific moments made me forget I wasn't actually listening to Crack the Skye or Once More 'Round the Sun. The vocals fit these latter influences well, finding a nice bridge between Hinds, Saner, and other acts like Torche.
There is also some great use of harmonies on Black Hole Space Wizard, perhaps best featured on the melancholy closer, "Clouds of Smoke." The interplay between the various singers is fantastic both in terms of melody and chemistry. You can tell that these guys have been close for some time now, and it really adds to my engagement. Alternatively, "Dirtmouth" stands out as the fastest and most straight-forward of the album. Morose singing is traded for frenetic Helmet-like howls as well as increased intensity in the drumming and guitar parts. It's nice to see the band successfully showcasing a variety of palettes, though for once I think I prefer the slower tunes in this case.
While this feels like a mere snapshot of what the band is capabale of, it definitely has gotten me interested. Howling Giant are very capable of writing catchy compositions that are interesting on an artistic level while also playing perfectly to an audience. As such, this band was made for the stage; so it is perhaps most important to point out that, first and foremost, they want to have fun. This is exemplified in the concepts, lyrics, writing, and performance all at once. What would you rather see? A bunch of wooden shoegazers who take themselves way too seriously, or a bunch of dudes having a good time. Fortunately with Black Hole Space Wizard, I don't think you have to choose between enjoyability and musicianship anyways. Album releases tomorrow, so check back then. Full stream also available HERE.