It makes a refreshing change in Britain’s current musical landscape to find a hardcore punk band willing to deviate from the tried and tested formula of either 4-piece or 5-piece with an aggressive frontman. Brighton’s Howls break the mould by being just a trio, with all members sharing vocal duties alongside their respective instruments. However, don’t think that by being reduced in numbers that Howls lack any power, as this self-titled EP still packs a powerful punch.
A low dirty bass tone kicks off opening track, ‘Necktie Social’, that sets the precedent for the rest of the EP. The sound is a dark and murky one. When the lead vocals kick in, the first thing that strikes is how they’re of a more traditional punk ilk, reminiscent of ‘Oi’ and ‘anarcho-punk’ bands from the 80s. Yet again, this shows how Howls aren’t afraid to go against the grain to achieve an original and exciting sound. Not all of the vocals are like this, however. There are still plenty of catchy, shouty punk lyrics to be heard and assumedly be screamed back at the band during gigs; “Dig up your bones, you’re going to need them” has that feel straight away.
The riffs on this EP definitely bring to mind Gallows when you hear them, but this is no bad thing. After all, Gallows have been the biggest thing to happen to punk music in the UK in decades, their influence is bound to permeate into the punk bands that have come after them, but the great thing about Howls is that they manage to fall on the right side of the line between being influenced by a band, and trying to rip them off. Particularly, the fact that the band only have one guitarist, they use the bass to fill things out more, giving them a more unique sound.
The first three tracks of the EP provide fast-paced aggressive punk, but where the band get most exciting is in fact in the final one-two of ‘Mono’ and ‘Year Of The Rat’. These songs find Howls at their darkest and are both really atmospheric pieces of music. The former is minimal and slow burning, whilst the latter mixes it up between fast sections, and slow heavy grooves.
It feels like this is where the band have really found themselves, mixing both traditional punk and contemporary hardcore whilst giving it a really bleak and ominous vibe. Hopefully, the band can carve this niche out for themselves and create a real stormer of a full-length.
Written by Dominic Webber