The Howling Wind – Of Babalon (Profound Lore Records)

Tuesday, 26th March 2013
Rating: 8.5/10

There’s been a good deal of buzz surrounding the new record from The Howling Wind, and rightly so. For those unfamiliar with this particular group, the black metal duo features guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lipynski of Unearthly Trance/Thralldom/The Serpentine Path fame, along with drummer/vocalist Tim Call of Aldeberan. Of Babalon finds these respected underground figures at the top of their game, with a collection of songs that perfectly combine swirling atmospherics, face-ripping speed, and straight-from-the-morgue vocals. What more could you want from a black metal band, right?

There’s plenty of variety within the album’s nine tracks, with scathing, speedy cuts like “Beast of the Sea” and “Graal” standing alongside the melodic “Scaling the Walls” and doom-oriented “The Mountain View.” Lipynski’s guitar work, in both the lead and riff departments, is just astounding, and stands out as one of the band’s best qualities. It’s refreshing to hear some bona-fide solos on a black metal record, and the fretwork here stands out as some of the most frantically technical material I’ve heard this year. One could almost argue that there’s just a hint of death metal influence in moments like the 3:25 mark of “Choronzon”, where Lipynski lets the fingers fly over some undeniably diabolical, groovy riffs. It’s quite lovely, really.

Black metal isn’t an easy genre to listen to by any means, and with the more theatrical bands often taking center stage, there are plenty of metal fans that shy away from the genre entirely. However, Lipynski and Call are a duo of a different caliber, offering an album filled to the brim with compelling, varied songs that have the potential to reach out to an audience beyond the BM faithful. While Lipynski’s Unearthly Trance output is arguably his most well-known, he and Call have tapped into some wonderfully primal creative energy on Of Babalon. Rock on, dudes.

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