Howl - Bloodlines 12 inch
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Providence, RI’s Howl know how to put the frighteners on listeners before they've even pressed play: The cover for their excellent self-titled, three-song debut depicted a skeleton with her hair blowing in the black wind, with angel wings sprouting beneath a pentagram. 2010's Full of Hell showed a fire-breathing figure cloaked in red and surrounded by creepy, isolated eyeballs. And now Bloodlines offers a verifiable general store of evil-- a heart spurting blood fashioned into flower blossoms, a vacant-eyed wolf snarling up at a naked woman with bleeding eyes, a skeleton wielding a spear against a background of oblivion. And in a catalog of less than two dozen total tunes, Howl have landed memorably frightening handles such as “And the Gnawing…”, “Gods in Broken Men”, “The Scorpion’s Last Sting”, and “Your Hell Begins”. You’re shuddering, right?
Bloodlines is the band’s second LP for Relapse Records, and actually works hard not to repel with fright, despite its image, titles, and lyrics rife with dismemberment, boiled blood, and sin. In fact, its mix of stoner doom, mid-level thrash, and shout-along hooks wants desperately to be loved, for its bulging choruses about “kill[ing] the light” and being torn “limb from limb” to be recited with grim glee. But Bloodlines’ attempt to be liked comes across as the desperate pandering of a band that’s not really certain of what it wants to do anymore. At the start of their career, HOWL was a righteous doom band propelled by hardcore momentum; by the time they recorded Full of Hell, they’d galvanized that mixture into a savage, head-down bluster that suggested High on Fire and was intoxicated with promise. Bloodlines shows traces of that, but the band’s roots are largely crowded out by the need to do a little bit of everything, to connect en masse in only 40 minutes.