Howling Giant - The Space Between Worlds (2019)
Following a string of EPs and a single for their cover of BOC's “Godzilla”, the Nashville-based group of Howling Giant are releasing their first full album, and taking their spacy stoner van art vibes to the next level by making it a concept album. Built around the idea of dreams creating alternate realities, the songs of The Space Between Worlds take form with a bit more lightness to their tone and attitude than the cover art and title might imply, but the abundance of riffage and
Moving faster than the stoner metal style usually does, opening track “Comet Rider” gets things off to a groove-packed start, with rushing bridges and barrages of drumming creating an atmosphere of '70s hard rock blurred into '90s desert rock, feeling something like a time-warped Kyuss at the end of the blend. “Nomad” carries on from there in similar fashion, setting up a comfortable run, before “Ghosts in the Well” shifts to a more stripped-down, acoustic bit of sober regret, accented with piano to really highlight the band's flexibility.
“The River Guide” switches the clutch back into heaviness, with a throbbing main bass riff that carries the listener right into another soft breakdown, this time with a bit of glimmering synth to give things that ethereal touch. Riding that slow mood through a few measures before slipping the drums back into to resolidify, the heavier tendencies get to really take hold again in the follow-up, “Ice Castle”, which might be my favorite tune on the album, due to its blending of all the album's elements while balancing them out to a satisfying and memorable chunk of earworming. It's a little unfortunate that it gets buried in the album's mid-section, but hopefully it'll come out as a strong enough hook to linger in most listeners' memories.
Boasting the oddest title of the songs, “Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express” swings to a lighter tone while maintaining the hookiness, and with the line “It's better to explode than fade away,” the ensuing bit of soloing seems a little underwhelming, though the drum flourish for the finish salves that to a degree. As “Everlight” stretches out to nearly eight minutes, the band shows their more leisurely side, along with some proggish focus on overt meter antics. It's fluid and fun enough to make the length a non-issue, but at the same time, it doesn't feel like the length is really being put to any use other than distinguishing it on that length alone. Penultimate track “The Orb” does a better job of that, with numerous change-ups in rhythm and pacing, as well as a shot of bass reinforcement in its latter half, and at just a minute shorter than the preceding song, it shows how much sharper the band can be when they put their minds to it.
Finally, “Stone Giant” delivers a tasty closer, with some high-action guitar-work and malleable song-shaping resulting in a pleasing finish to the dream-based tale. Those who go into the album after seeing the “stoner metal spacelords” moniker found in the press release may be taken aback by the lightness of it, but there's fun and grooves to be had, so give it a go if you're looking for a way to extend the summer warmth.
For Fans Of; Molly Hatchet, Night Horse, Sheavy, Shepherd (India), Van Halen