The cross-continental duo of Ryan Lipynsky and Tim Call have been making albums as The Howling Wind since 2007. A Profound Lore staple since the label was just a fledgling, they have seen three of their full-lengths released under the banner. So it was quite the surprise to wake up one morning and see a new Howling Wind album unleashed upon the world, put forth independently barely a year after their previous effort. Ryan, who supplies the vocals and guitars, had this to say about the unexpected release:
Originally it was going to possibly be a vinyl EP for a label. But as we kept writing and started recording we decided that since it was something we were recording entirely on our own without a budget, that it might be cool to self-release this one. Almost as an experiment.Listening to the pair’s fourth album together, it’s clear that there’s a reason they have kept the band’s roster to just themselves. Having no plans to ever play in front of an audience, they live and thrive in the songwriting and recording process. Blending their respective genre backgrounds while giving an equal amount of attention to sounds both familiar and freakish, The Howling Wind reach amazing heights on Vortex. The album progresses like a story arc, building and gaining momentum before exploding at an apex: “Dissonance in the Atmosphere.” A perfect track title for the band as their knack for balancing atmosphere, melody and chaos spews forth relentlessly. Its augmented chords and off-kilter riffing flow effortlessly, resulting in a dynamic that's jarring as well as calming - a perfect final storm before the album begins its descent.
Mid-tempo BM is one of the most unforgiving permutations as it can expose and highlight that weak transition or the sparse verse that hasn't been fully fleshed out. But the two craftsmen switch things up just enough to keep things interesting without succumbing to the overtly weird or numbingly simplistic. Song structures are there if you look for them and occasionally a guitar solo will even slip through the din. Lipynsky’s knack for matching his vocal rhythms to the guitar lines is unique in this typically frog-throated underworld and the whole production is as well-rounded as you can get from an extreme metal record.
The unorthodox release of Vortex made me approach how I digested the album in a completely different manner. When a band I know and admire announces an album I tend to follow the marketing of it; mentally preparing myself as I take in the album art, track listing, an early stream of a song and finally taking a refresher on the band’s back catalogue to see what progressions will be made, if any. Delving into a new album free of PR bombardments and false hype was a refreshing experience, made only more rewarding by The Howling Wind’s refined yet insane brand of black metal.
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]