The Howling Wind

Of Babalon

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Of Babalon is the third offering from black metal duo the Howling Wind: Ryan Lipynsky on vocals, guitars, and bass (ex-Unearthly Trance and Thralldom) and Tim Call on drums (Aldebaran). What the band assemble here is an occult concept recording based on Aleister Crowley's Thelema System teachings on the Lady Babalon and her consort, the great beast Chaos. Fans of conceptual black metal will get loads from this, and the lyrical debate in this re-telling of Crowley's tale will be rich. For the rest of us, it's the music that matters and the Howling Wind deliver big. Recorded by Colin Marston (Krallice, Dysrhythmia, Gorguts) THW have been influenced by Celtic Frost in terms of sonics, attack, and the layered density of sound, but they are ultimately their own animal; this is a particularly American breed of black metal, far more virtuosic and precise than its European counterpart. While things commence slowly and deliberately in the intro to album-opener "The Seal Upon the Tomb," Lipynsky's guitars and basses quickly knot the center with a repetitive riff and slow, yet aggressive leads, even as Call's drums are a constant thrum of floor toms and bass drum. Lipynsky's vocals are guttural to be sure, but lyrics are discernible in this mix -- dig the atmospheric low chants in the backdrop."Scaling the Walls" begins as a four-note riff ringing in the middle register to accompany his unhinged screaming, but it's the bass and drums that ratchet things up to white-heat chaos. While they never lose the precision, they come very close to letting it all unravel. The syncopated rhythmic thrust in "Abominations and Filth" is complete with power chords, angular high-string staccato squalls, and sheer physical force from Call's stellar drumming. The real punisher here, however, is "Graal," whose twin range of guitars, poured-in basslines, and constant blastbeats are unrelenting. Of Babalon is the most advanced musical statement from this crew yet. The American black metal scene is dotted with excellent outfits to be sure, though many of them are more progressive in nature. The Howling Wind prove here that despite instrumental prowess and conceptual unity, they clearly embody the truly black in black metal.

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