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Howling Giant - Glass Future review

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Band: Howling Giant
Album: Glass Future
Release date: October 2023

01. Hourglass
02. Siren Song
03. Aluminium Crown
04. Hawk In A Hurricane
05. First Blood Of Melchor
06. Glass Future
07. Tempest, And The Liar's Gateway
08. Sunken City
09. Juggernaut
10. There's Time Now

A ‘glass future’ gives off an impression of fragility; however, with their sophomore full-length album, Nashville’s Howling Giant appear to be laying solid foundations for their nascent career.

Well, I guess nascent is in relative terms; this is the band’s second full-length album, but they do also have their fair share of EPs and other shorter releases under their belt from across their near-decade of existence. The all-singing power trio, whose most notable member is arguably bassist Sebastian Baltes owing to him being the son of Peter Baltes (ex-Accept, a connection cemented by Baltes Sr. and Udo Dirkschneider joining Howling Giant on a “Shoot To Thrill” cover in 2021), have gradually accumulated fans along the way, particularly from regularly streaming for fans during the pandemic and releasing a successful split with Sergeant Thunderhoof in 2020. Having now partnered with Magnetic Eye Records, the scene is set for the trio to rise further up the stoner metal totem pole.

I’ve mentioned before when reviewing Pull Down The Sun’s debut that I sometimes struggle to find the ideal comparisons to other bands for a review, and appreciate it when an obvious example comes immediately to mind. For Howling Giant, it didn’t take long for one such comparison to reach out: King Buffalo. Like King Buffalo, Howling Giant walk a line between rock and metal, and between stoner rock and psychedelic rock, on Glass Future, and similarly capture the charm of having at-times genuine heaviness contrasted with mellow vocals (albeit substantially more harmonized by this band with their 3 vocalists) and a generally chilled vibe to the songs. On top of that, there’s more than a few instrumental passages that channel the same kind of lush psychedelia as more recent Elder releases.

With those reference points established, we can now tackle what Howling Giant have assembled on Glass Future, which is for the most part incredibly charming. The first main song on the album, “Siren Song”, is possibly my favourite; at one end of the spectrum, you have it opening with pounding drums and lively lead guitar riffs that show the band at their most metallic, but then there’s such a vibrant melodicism to the verses, from the shimmering keyboards to the clarity with which tasteful little guitar licks come through. The underlying chug of the verse, which moves steadily forward with a real sense of purpose, really captures the essence of what makes heavier King Buffalo enjoyable.

Beyond “Siren Song”, there’s basically a conveyor belt of solid songs that each offer their own aspect that stands out. “Aluminum Crown” is overall more subdued and more understated in terms of sonic tone, but has some tasty Elder-style guitar lead work later on, while the lively rocker “Hawk In A Hurricane” imbues a warm sense of pathos into the vocals and lead guitar melodies in the chorus. Howling Giant feel overall situated somewhere between stoner and psychedelic rock (not all that unlike Green Lung on their new album), but some tracks veer closer towards one direction; “First Blood Of Melchor” has a central riff clearly from the realm of desert rock, while “Sunken City” feels closer to psychedelic rock, or rather metal given its heaviness. Throughout, Howling Giant find a good balance between cool riffs, guitar licks, and more mellow and evocative tones; I also really enjoy the distinct atmosphere of the jamlike “Tempest, And The Liar’s Gateway”, whose central motif has a guitar tone and chill slickness that carries an inherent coolness to it.

There really is a lot to like about Glass Future: so much so, in fact, that it does disappoint me a bit that I don’t enjoy it more. I struggled to pinpoint quite what it was that was turning me off it at times, but reading a couple of other reviews helped me out; for all the talk of having 3 members contributing towards the vocals and harmonies, it is the vocals that don’t quite click for me at times. Part of this, I recognize, comes from my own personal clashes of taste with certain elements of retro(-sounding) rock, but there’s just quite a few moments that rub me the wrong way. I can’t say for sure how much of it comes down to performance, writing, production or personal taste, and it’s certainly not a constant critique; one of the sections that least works for me, the ‘Holy war, angel star’ chorus of “Glass Future, is followed swiftly after its second repetition by a more purposeful, evocative bridge, in which I quite enjoy the ‘See through the eyes of the fallen’ vocal accompaniment.

I also don’t think I can entirely put any misgivings I have towards Glass Future entirely down to vocals; I don’t especially like the chorus on “Sunken City”, but the song in general just isn’t entirely up my street. I also find “Juggernaut” to be a slightly nothing-y song (albeit with a decent last minute or so) before the subdued proggy closer “There’s Time Now”. However, in spite of what I’ve said in the last paragraph and a bit, I do overall have a generally positive impression of Glass Future; “Siren Song” in particular is a banger, but most of the tracks have one or more moment or element that clicks very nicely for me, and on the whole, I find myself feeling far more warmly towards this album than I do quite a lot of retro-revival heavy stoner/psych rock in this vein, so if you're a connoisseur of this style, I would very much recommend trying out this record.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 5
Production: 7

Written on 16.11.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not

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