One of the best bands in recent memory, Howl is a band, despite some critical success and fan respect, is still a bit under the radar. They may not be top of mind to some when you talk about the major American metal bands, but they certainly deserve you attention with their abrasive blend of sludge, doom and other influences. Following up their full length debut Full of Hell in, the band released Bloodlines (Relapse) almost a year ago. Vincent (Vince) Hausman chatted with Ghost Cult about the maturation process of this brutal band, and glimpse of what Howl is capable of next.
Out for almost a year now, Bloodlines marked some slight changes in the writing tenor of the band who rode the wave of Full of Hell’s doom and crust leanings:
“We wanted to challenge ourselves musically and lyrically. We wanted a more aggressive record. We wanted a more modern sound as well, since we didn’t want to make the same album twice. I think another difference was that we wanted to approach the song writing a little more differently. We tried to give songs more individual character or atmospheres or flavors, as opposed to just piling on riffs. Which I think that worked great for Full of Hell, and there is definitely something to that. But we wanted to make the sound of Bloodlines a little bit more distinct from each other. Overall a more aggressive heavy metal record, as opposed to just a doom/sludge record. That was the big difference, in terms of approach, intent and purpose on Bloodlines.”
“Ultimately we’re a band, that doesn’t over analyze things too much. We’re not trying to make a classic rock, or too going experimental either. We are a metal band. We wanted to write metal record and we wanted to write a metal record when we did Full of Hell, too. We always want to hear a certain consistency and have a definite “Howl sound”, even as the band may continue to develop and evolve.”
Some of the development from the album came from the lineup changes that brought new song writing chemistry: “It’s great to be working with Josh (Durocher-Jones), who joined us for the writing of Bloodlines, especially in the lead department. I think his contributions added a lot of texture and variety to the record. Most of all his style of working helped us stay on task a little bit better, when we were in the basement of our drummers house, in our pjs, essentially writing the record. (laughs) Maybe I shouldn’t have said that, but they were really metal pj’s. (laughs)”
Although at times Hausman has put down his axe just to scream on a song or two in his career, he has transitioned to smoothly to full-time front man now.
“We’re touring now where with me just doing vocals, and we brought on our buddy Jonathan (Hall) in to play second guitar. What we discovered in the writing of Bloodlines, the vocals are more varied, there’s a lot more of them, and they’re all over the place in terms of style. So in order for me to do them justice live, we decided that it would be more effective to focus on the vocals and just be the front man. We wanted to make sure the musical chops get what they deserve too. I wrote a lot of the material and I will continue to do that. But I am also at a point in my career where I am ready to welcome some outside influences, and collaborating with other people. So bringing Josh and Jonathan in has been a key step in doing that. I feel like I will come into my own, like never before in terms of the vocal duties. We can put on a hell of a show, and this is the best lineup yet from the band. The other dudes in the band are great musicians and great performers too. It’s been really fun.”
One of the biggest changes from album to album, that point to the growth of this band is the move into new lyrical terrain for Hausman: “There is some personal shit in there, but I also leave things for people to interpret for themselves and find meaning. I got an email the other day from this guy, even though we are beer drinkers, this guy was struggling to overcome addiction and got inspiration and help from our lyrics, and from the album which I thought was really awesome. That is not necarilly what I wrote about, but it’s cool that he was able to interpret and extract from that, to find a meaning. So I really welcome that. At the same time, heavy metal for me, hasn’t been so much about fantasy, about wizards and dragons. It’s cool it that’s your thing, but it’s not for me. I got into heavy metal because I was pissed off and and didn’t understand a lot of things. I didn’t like people telling me how to be, how to dress, and how to feel. I didn’t like being told what to do, how they were going to define my sexuality for me. So I found a community of people, and an outlet musically that I connected with. When it’s my turn to write the lyrics, I like to keep it real too. I can’t write about unicorns and goats. That doesn’t really do it for me. When you read the lyrics back from Bloodlines, it will be a reaction to a lot about what is going on in the world.”
“One example is there will always be the hypocrisy of organized religious institutions. For example people, like the catholic church, who always preached morality and from a doctrine of fear, telling people who they can and can’t love. All the while, shielding each other from being prosecuted for pedophilia. That’s really fucked up world that we live in a word like that. That is kind of the stuff you will find backing my lyrics as well.”
While it’s not an obvious influence on the band, the legendary Providence underground music and art scene definitely played a part in the evolution of the character of the band, at least in subtle ways.
“I don’t know if you can hear it in our music, because Howl is not very artsy, or experimental. Obviously, Providence has a thriving experimental art scene. It’s been great to play with vast array of bands that do different shit. It’s been a hotbed for music and performers for years, so it’s kind of underrated. On the other hand, it’s been a well-kept secret in New England for years, so that’s cool too. Our bass player Jesse is playing in a black metal project called Sire, and that’s a band to keep an eye on.”
Keith (Keefy) Chachkes