By Lord Randall

Despite having a statewide population exceeded by most major metropolitan cities, Rhode Island is ranked the 2nd most densely populated, just behind New Jersey. Also, these dudes were the first to declare their independence from British rule, way back in 1776. Pretty ballsy move for the smallest state in the Union, I’d say.

Okay, history lesson over, point being if you’re going to walk tall, you’d better – as Teddy Roosevelt said – carry a big stick. Having just rocked my face off and sprained my neck to MASTODON’s "Leviathan" beforehand, to say the bar was set high for HOWL is kind of like saying The Family Guy is “kind of funny, but only once in awhile”. ‘Attrition’ opens the door, riffs doing their job when it comes to catchiness, but after the pummeling and sonic wizardry I’ve just experienced, fall far and wide of anything groundbreaking. It’s when ‘Midnight Eyes’ chugs a gallon of pure liquid caffeine and pushes the speedometer to the redline that HOWL is at its best. ‘One Last Nail’ is the first time I hear HOWL making its presence known in an individual sense, melding LOSA-styled battle riffing to near-hardcore bombast, but making it their own in the process. Despite their geographic positioning, ‘With A Blade’ is low-slung, Southern-tinged ecstasy, peppered with buckshot rhythms and solid solo work, while closer ‘Embrace Your Nerve’ is at times rawking, at times coming off like a sleepy COUGH, leaving me feeling – as with much of the album – like I’d just watched a fairly talented sculptor become bored with a half-finished project, and just wander out of the room.