Review & Track Premiere: Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

howling-giant-black-hole-space-wizard-part-2

[Click play above to stream ‘Circle of Druids’ from Howling Giant’s Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2. EP is out Aug. 25 and available to preorder on Bandcamp.]

At very least, we can be sure that by the time Nashville progressive metal/heavy rockers Howling Giant finish telling the story that thus far spans their second and third EPs, they will have long since outgrown the goofball title they’ve given the series. In truth, the complexity and scope of Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 might be a little undercut by the stoner-is-as-stoner-does banner it seems to fly, if only because someone who didn’t hear either the trio’s 2015 self-titled or last year’s Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 (review here) could potentially too easily write it off based on superficialities and miss out on what’s actually a marked depth and individual purpose of craft.

Released almost precisely a year after its predecessor, its six tracks/31 minutes bring the self-releasing trio of guitarist/vocalist Tom Polzine, bassist/vocalist Roger Marks and drummer/vocalist Zach Wheeler to new levels of execution in their material, rife with wonderfully realized vocal harmonies, epic-feeling crescendos, and a still-weighted tonality that they seem to be able to move and shift according to whatever whim drives a given piece, whether it’s the introductory “Henry Tate” with its spoken-word vocals and the first of many guest key/synth contributions throughout from Drew Harakal beneath the first of many swirling, character-laden solos from Polzine, or the galloping apex that leads into a wide-breadth wash at the end of “Visions,” layers of effects swirl — and again, keyboard/synth from Harakal — coming to the forefront of the longest inclusion here at 7:39. Flirting with long-player flow in its front-to-back delivery and the fact that it’s 10 minutes longer than the installment prior, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 establishes Howling Giant‘s underlying commitment to developing their approach and benefits from a quickly and righteously burgeoning stylistic reach.

Because it’s a chapter in a (presumably ongoing) series, one looks for consistencies with what’s come before as well as the growth so plain to hear in the material. And it’s there in the overall sonic take and in some of the intensity of the prog-metal cascade in “The Pioneer” or the penultimate highlight “Circle of Druids,” as well as in the sung harmonies, but there isn’t an element present that doesn’t seem to have moved willfully forward from where the band was a year ago. While they may be working in the same narrative, based around the end of civilization and the adventures of the last remaining human (dubbed “The Pioneer”) among future-mystical presences — last time the Space Wizard, this time the Earth Wizard, as manifest in the closer of the same name — even down to its basic structure as mirrored sides A and B each with an introductory piece, shorter middle cut and longer finale, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 simply has more to offer than what was already an impressive display in songwriting.

howling giant

Arrangement flourish brings a complementary baritone sax guest appearance from Kim Wheeler on the interlude/side B intro “The Forest Speaks” that picks up alongside acoustic pluck and leads gently into “Circle of Druids,” and as much momentum as Polzine, Marks, Wheeler and Harakal — the latter of whom apparently recorded in Texas but might need to relocate and actually join this band given what the organ and synth add to the tracks here — build throughout “Henry Tate,” the low-end fuzz roll of the early verses and ending of “The Pioneer” and the precise, all-class linearity of “Visions,” they remain likewise committed to broadening the palette of their aesthetic and if one thinks of Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 as an EP and thus a showcase of where Howling Giant are in the inevitable march toward a first full-length, one would be remiss to think of them as anything but ready for that crucial next step.

Whether or not that’s actually where Howling Giant are directly headed — that is, if they’ll do an LP next or follow this Part 2 with a Part 3 EP — I don’t know, but on a creative level, they bring a vibrant persona to these tracks enough to give the impression that their evolution will continue in either context. Beginning with a quick spoken intro, “Circle of Druids” launches from out of “The Forest Speaks” and unfolds to an especially satisfying blend of chugging riffery and a wide-open payoff hook, underscored by Wheeler‘s double-kick and given/needing few frills around its basic structure. Like some of Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1, it reminds a bit of Devin Townsend‘s heavier progressive metallurgy, but ultimately proves more distinct, and “Earth Wizard” effectively follows in dropping the tempo to hit a balance like a more straightforward vision of what Ancestors brought to their 2012 triumph, In Dreams and Time.

This initial patience gradually shifts into a fuller charge in “Earth Wizard”‘s back half, which feels somewhat inevitable, but the finale is both earned and once more plays to the notion of Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 as a kind of proto-full-length in its overarching fluidity. As the last vestiges of guitar and synth fade out to bring the EP to its end, the sense is still one of being a shorter release, but if that means Howling Giant are leaving their audience wanting more of the arc coming to life in their tracks, then that only bodes well for a next outing, whatever form it might take. Likewise, one has to acknowledge that while the title might just as likely turn a given listener off as on when it comes to taking up Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2, its goofballery also stands as a signal of an abiding lack of pretense that extends to the songwriting as well. That is, while their arrangements are thought out, their performances clear-headed and impeccably mixed, the corresponding quotient of self-indulgence is remarkably low for something so progressive. If the tradeoff for that is a silly name, it’s a small price to pay — sometimes it’s fun to have fun — and for those who do decide to dig into Howling Giant‘s third EP, the rewards are no less expansive than the band’s sound itself.

Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (2017)

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Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1: Turned to Fire

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 8th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

howling giant black hole space wizard part 1

[Stream Howling Giant’s Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 EP in full by clicking play above. EP is out this Friday, Aug. 12.]

The cumbersomely but somehow appropriately titled EP, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1, from progressive heavy rockers/metallers Howling Giant is not their first short release, but it nonetheless represents a beginning, as its number would indicate. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, the self-releasing outfit are working with a strong narrative thread running through the four included tracks — “Mothership,” “Exodus: Earth,” “Dirtmouth” and “Clouds of Smoke” — and they’ve constructed a plotline that plays to the different mood in each song. All told, the EP runs a little under 22 minutes, so it’s a relatively quick in and out, but guitarist/vocalist Tom Polzine, bassist/vocalist Roger Marks, drummer/vocalist Zach Wheeler and organist/synthesist Drew Harakal (who does not play with the band live) cover a surprising amount of ground during that time, giving listeners a glimpse a range that by no means seems to be done growing.

Each cut brings a personality and identity of its own that the storyline then plays to, describing the glorious ascent and ultimate destruction of mankind and maybe everything else that leaves a single survivor on Earth as the music careens between the Dead Roots Stirring-era Elder-style melodicism and winding riffage of opener “Mothership” to the organ-laced final build and crash of “Clouds of Smoke.” Along the way the changes are stark but in a way that makes sense given the narrative context and the progressive scope of the release, and rather than simply jump around between aesthetics, Howling Giant do an effective job of tying together the varied vibes in song structure and lyrics.

In short, they take what would otherwise be a collection of four somewhat disparate tracks — the shifts are stark, but not outlandish — and turn it into a journey for the listener. 22 minutes is about as long as half-hour tv episodes are these days sans commercials, so maybe it’s fair to think of Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 like a teleplay with four acts that would presumably make the band’s prior 2015 four-tracker a pilot testing the waters for this season-one-episode-one release. And whether or not Howling Giant continue the series or their interests and whims take them elsewhere, their journey is cohesive, flourish of organ adding depth to the riff in “Mothership” initially and then stepping back to make room for the massive grooving crash that ends the track and leads into the start of “Exodus: Earth,” which turns to slower, more nodding, fuzzier fare that seems intended to hypnotize as much as engage as did “Mothership” before it.

howling giant

They prove quickly that they can do the one just as well as the other. That kind of becomes a running theme as well for Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 in that the band doesn’t ever set foot onto territory where they aren’t immediately at home. Could come from confidence of execution, could be a product of the recording situation — the EP is self-produced — but as “Exodus: Earth” shifts into proggier roll with voiceover narration, there is no change in the level of poise they show or the command they wield over the performance. That remains true through “Dirtmouth” and especially “Clouds of Smoke” as well.

More intense from the very start, “Dirtmouth” is also the shortest of the tracks at 4:28 and aside from highlighting Marks‘ formidable bass-tone, it digs into a straightforward, thrashier gallop in the vein of a fuzzier High on Fire or even early C.O.C., classic mosh riff and all. Of course, they do this while also keeping the tone and progressive edge they brought to “Mothership” and “Exodus: Earth,” but it’s another clear change in focus, and another crisp execution that could’ve just as easily fallen flat. After “Dirtmouth” returns to its intro to finish out, “Clouds of Smoke” starts in quietly with spacious guitar that calls to mind some of Devin Townsend‘s more restorative moments, and unfolds patiently into a smooth rhythm topped by harmonized vocals and a linear build that will pushes into a solo section that provides the apex for the EP as a whole before ending with a last ringout of fading organ.

Of the elements shown throughout, perhaps it’s the patience of the closer that’s the most telling about the band overall, since it speaks to the consciousness at work behind their output, but that shouldn’t necessarily undercut the spectrum they cover across these four songs, which is significant, sets up a flow between them and still gives an EP-style sampling of what Howling Giant can accomplish stylistically going forward and working off the exposition of this first episode.

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Howling Giant Post “Dirtmouth” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 1st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

howling giant (Photo by Kim Auch)

By way of a spoiler, I’m going to be streaming Howling Giant‘s upcoming Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 EP a week from today, so I probably won’t say that much about it here, but the video for “Dirtmouth” — one of the four tracks included on the release, which is out Aug. 12 — shows the crucial factor in what they do: they don’t take themselves too seriously. That’s the misstep bands with progressive tendencies make all too often, and who knows, this is only the Nashville trio’s second EP so they may yet get there, but as the hipster urbane bar patrons become beardo vest-jockeys headbanging away to the track as the band plays in a brewery or some other kind of industrial setting, yeah, there’s no apparent danger of being overly pretentious.

Sometimes fun is a good thing. Howling Giant very clearly had some in the making of this clip, so with the promise of more to come, I’ll just say what I always say.

Enjoy:

Howling Giant, “Dirtmouth” official video

“Dirtmouth” is taken from forthcoming EP Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1, which will be released August 12.

The forthcoming release is the first installment of the fascinating Black Hole Space Wizard EP concept series. As guitarist Tom Polzine explains, “Musically we aim to write songs that are melodic, catchy, and head bang-able. As a concept series, 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.”

Conceptually, the EP paints four distinct scenes: 1. The pinnacle of mankind; 2. An exodus from Earth; 3. The Black Hole Space Wizard destroying everything; and; 4. A lone survivor trapped on a ravaged Mother Earth. In Roger Mark’s (bass/vocals) own words, “The first track is a little more progressive, packed with riffs both dark and triumphant. The second track is all about build and groove. The third track is thrash, metal, and destructive. The final track is spacey with doom elements.”

Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 was produced by HOWLING GIANT, mixed by Kim Auch, and mastered by Chris Fasco.

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Howling Giant Release Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 Aug. 12

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

howling giant (Photo by Kim Auch)

There’s plenty of groove underlying the winding progressiveness of the leadoff track to Howling Giant‘s awesomely-titled Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1, which you can hear below, and for that reason it seems fair to include an Elder comparison along with one for Mastodon, whose methods one can hear particularly early on. On the whole, Howling Giant seem less manic than that band was — one does not begin a series of releases called Black Hole Space Wizard without being a very specific kind of laid back — but listening to “Mothership,” there’s nothing lazy about it, including the songwriting, which is catchy and bodes well for what the other three tracks on the release might hold.

Details on the story of the series and more follow, as well as the song, courtesy of the PR wire:

howling giant black hole space wizard part 1

Fuzz Rockers HOWLING GIANT Releasing ‘Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1’ / New Single Streaming

Nashville, TN Fuzz Rockers HOWLING GIANT will release Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 on August 12.

The forthcoming release is the first installment of the fascinating Black Hole Space Wizard EP concept series. As guitarist Tom Polzine explains, “Musically we aim to write songs that are melodic, catchy, and head bang-able. As a concept series, 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.”

Conceptually, the EP paints four distinct scenes: 1. The pinnacle of mankind; 2. An exodus from Earth; 3. The Black Hole Space Wizard destroying everything; and; 4. A lone survivor trapped on a ravaged Mother Earth. In Roger Mark’s (bass/vocals) own words, “The first track is a little more progressive, packed with riffs both dark and triumphant. The second track is all about build and groove. The third track is thrash, metal, and destructive. The final track is spacey with doom elements.”

Overall, it you are one of the many that wishes MASTODON had continued in the cosmic, crushing progressive manner of Crack The Skye and Blood Mountain, HOWLING GIANT is your dream band!

Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 was produced by HOWLING GIANT, mixed by Kim Auch, and mastered by Chris Fasco.

Track Listing:
1. Mothership
2. Exodus: Earth
3. Dirtmouth
4. Clouds of Smoke

Album Line Up:
Tom Polzine – Guitar, Vocals
Roger Marks – Bass Guitar, Vocals
Zach Wheeler – Drums, Vocals
Drew Harakal – Organ, Synths

Live Line Up:
Tom Polzine – Guitar, Vocals
Roger Marks – Bass Guitar, Vocals
Zach Wheeler – Drums, Vocals

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www.facebook.com/howlinggiant/

Howling Giant, “Mothership”

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Riff Rock Records Makes Label Debut with Free Compilation

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 29th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

London-based Riff Rock Records makes its mission plain with its first release a free 10-track compilation bringing together a swath of acts from the UK and beyond. Most of the bands on Riff Rock Records Vol. 1 have a demo or an EP out to their credit — Ten Foot Wizard might be the most established, with two albums under their belt, but BongCauldron have been around for a couple years as well. Perhaps the outliers of the whole deal are Howling Giant, who sneak into the lineup as the only American band, being based in Nashville, TN. Near as I can tell, Alpine heavy rockers Mount Hush are the only other band not from England or Scotland.

There are far worse ways for a label to start off, though, than by showing that its ear-to-the-ground extends outside of its native scene. Headed up by Leigh Jones of heavy rock/metal mischief-makers Groan, Riff Rock RecordsRiff Rock Records Vol. 1 boasts up and comers like Skunk, Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Bad Meat and Tradish, and is available now as a name-your-price download through Bandcamp. Note the three ‘r’s in the logo of the artwork.

More to come as the imprint gets going. With the promise of making public the first signing soon, the compilation announcement was pretty brief, but it went like this:

riff rock records vol. 1

Riff Rock Records Vol. 1

Our first compilation is now available to download.

http://riffrockrecords.co.uk/album/riff-rock-records-vol-1

The best new unsigned hard rock, stoner, doom and sludge for FREE!

1. Ten Foot Wizard – Up & Away
2. Mount Hush – King Beyond
3. SKUNK – Black Hash
4. Tradish – Nautilus
5. Atragon – Dead Weight of Unimportant Flesh
6. Derelics – Ride the F*ckin’ Snake to Valhalla
7. Howling Giant – Whale Lord
8. Bad Meat – March of the Hawk
9. BongCauldron – Bigfoot Reigns
10. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters – Mother Chub

Please help us out in these early days by sharing this around if you dig it. Thank you!

http://riffrockrecords.co.uk/album/riff-rock-records-vol-1

https://www.facebook.com/RiffRockMusic/
https://twitter.com/riffrockrecords

VA, Riff Rock Records Vol. 1

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