By Ryan Falla
Howling Sycamore’s self-titled debut album is an exuberantly written one; an exercise in pushing traditional power metal to new heights with uniquely crafted visions. In the case of Howling Sycamore, both the band and the record, a strangely invigorating plateau of power metal is formed through a strongly identifiable tonality that adheres to Twin Peaks style imagery. This is very much a power metal record with flavoring of hardcore or extreme metal.
As soon as you enter the album, you’re enveloped in a dark and doomy landscape akin to a Satanic vision of the psychedelic nature. The music is engrossing in both its slight eccentrics and easily identifiable personality, it’s very easy to find immersion in the music of Howling Sycamore. The opening track, ‘Upended’, is easily the most eccentrically written tune of the record; only a minute into the song and you’re introduced to the death wails of Bruce LaMont’s baritone sax.
The baritone sax work might be my favorite point of the entire album. Atmospheric subtleties are ignored, the heavy hand of the baritone sax sounding more like the agonizing and terror-filled cries of a dying animal. Scratch that, the baritone sax work is so intense it sounds more like a horde of wailing creatures. It’s very jarring, and excitable.
There are a couple of breaks in the atmosphere with ‘Intermezzo’ and ‘Chant of Stillness’, two tracks that take the softer approach towards building a gloomy atmosphere. These breaks create a solid sense of musical scope as Howling Sycamore displays multiple ends of the same atmospheric spectrum.
This is a good record, but I can’t help but feel as if the first track was the highlight. ‘Upended’ carves a curious course for the path of the record, and right after experiencing this opening track the rest of the record hits with a little less impact. The chaotic introduction of the first track is unmatched throughout. Even if you don’t like what you’re hearing you’ll immediately be captured by it.
The hardcore-power metal tonality of the record doesn’t let up one bit, though the Lynchian-styled thematics aren’t as impactful as they are with the opening track. What makes this eccentric horror-theme powerful is its ability to drive discomfort deep into your soul, and it feels as if Howling Sycamore pulled back on the throttle just a tad bit; or maybe they turned it up for this track.
Howling Sycamore’s self-titled debut is a fine record that pulls you into the musical landscape of their own creation; a discomforting, abstract musical atmosphere that makes an unmistakable impression. As the record moves forward this impression settles into something a bit more standard. Despite this, it is a solid debut from a very promising band.
There’s a lot to like with Howling Sycamore, and I’m looking to how much more they have to offer in their promising future.
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Record Label: Prosthetic
Release Date: January 26 2018
1. Upended (6:48)
2. Obstinate Pace (5:43)
3. Let Fall (5:21)
4. Intermezzo (1:05)
5. Midway (5:55)
6. Chant of Stillness (4:29)
7. Descent to Light (5:25)
8. Dysphoria (2:58)
Total Duration: 37:44