Howls of Ebb continue mastery of black strangeness on murky second record ‘Cursus Impasse…’

HoBLots of people who don’t listen to metal easily fall back on the assertion that it’s just a bunch of noise. I can understand that. To the untrained ear, what people are hearing, depending on the band, could be a cacophony of chaos with no discernable jumping-off point and simply a mad sea of wild pandemonium. Of course, for those of us who do listen with regularity, it still can sound that way sometimes.

I say that because we stand face to hideous face with “Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows,” the second record from San Francisco-based duo Howls of Ebb (or HoB, as they accept as an alternate name), one of the most perplexing metal albums of this still pretty young year. A mad sea of wild pandemonium, indeed. What HoB unleash on this seven-track, 42-minute demonstration is black metal chaos at its finest. No wall is solid enough to steady yourself, and no blow to the body can be predicted, because hands are coming from so damn many directions. But the record is anything but a bunch of noise. Listen closely and you can hear the sonic tributaries carved into the music, feel the imaginative rhythms they set up, and experience the energy of madness poured into this impressive album.

bookletAs noted, HoB managed to weave all of this with just two members—multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Zee-Luuuvft-Huund (formerly of Ligeia and Nepenthe) and drummer Roteen’ Blisssss. Much like their debut “Vigils of the Third Eye,” the band lets loose all of the dark energies contained within them. But despite the fact that so much is going on here, and the twists and turns are many, they never overdo it. This is barbaric weirdness done just right in that their fire never gets snuffed out by too much terror sitting on the surface. That said, the record still might give you fits of anxiety. By the way, pay attention to the links at the end of the piece, because this record is being put out by multiple labels in different formats.

“The 6th Octopul’th Grin” begins the record immediately, already digging into your brain and challenging your strength. The vocals are spat out, while the guitars chug and then spill into a weirdly robotic haze, with melodies perplexing. As the song goes on, the intensity and insanity build up, stampeding through strangeness and eventually bleeding out. “Cabals of Molder” teases calm at the front end, allowing you to take a misguided breath. Then it’s into the fire, with the song bursting with force and the guitars smothering. There’s a groove to this song that would be catchy if it wasn’t so damn vertigo inducing, and the track then heads into a grimy pit, with growls lacerating and jerky bends being taken at full speed. “Maat Mon’s Fume” sounds like a siren at the start, circling your head and sending you toward a panic. Sinewy bass snakes through, while the growls boil underneath the din, and static-filled, jerky riffs get heavier and more violent as the song swirls toward its ugly finish.

“7 Ascetic Cinders, 8 Dowries of gA’nOm” is weird and spastic as it starts, with whispery growls sending chills down your spine and the bed of strange sounds confusing your nerve endings. Guttural speaking lurches along, with the song continually getting heavier and mesmerizing melodies lapping up. The guitars later go off and shake your insides, with the back end sprawling out. “Gaunt Vertigo” is an interlude that, while brief, will make you feel like you’re immersed in delirium, and then it’s on to “The Subliminal Lock – A Precursor to Vengeance” that begins with a cool, dark vibe sliding underneath the murky waters. The song starts crushing and pummeling as it goes, with some cool soloing slipping in before everything bursts out of control. A clobbering assault breaks out, one of the most frantic on the album, while the guitars wail out of control, and fierce screeches lead into the song fading away. Closer “The Apocryphalic Wick” has noise pulsating, while chants echo out and surround, and the song finally opens up. Guitars begin another frenzied assault, with the tempo shaking you and forcing your brain to collide with the inside of your skull. The band just mashes your psyche here with their final message, as each element folds into each other, confusion reigns, and a few final growls reach out and gash you as your well-being is forever marred.

Howls of Ebb continue to defy conventional means of making music, and they take another spellbinding step forward on “Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows.” Fans of bands such as Portal, Antediluvian, Deathspell Omega, and Impetuous Ritual are sure to become disciples in the House of HoB, and that’s for good reason. This band is a great source of chaotic magic that’ll keep you guessing long after the music you witnessed has passed.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album (CD), go here:

Or here (vinyl):

Or here (cassette):

For more on the label, go here:

And here:

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