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Album Review: Warcrab - The Howling Silence
Warcrab return with their fourth full-length, 'The Howling Silence'. Bringing their unique brand of Deathy Sludge (or Sludgy Death?), their latest effort is a raw and hefty 45 minutes of riffs, blasts and tempo changes, which should offer something to fans of both Death Metal and Sludge alike.
The Bandcamp page for the release has this to say about it: “Just when you thought UK death metal/sludge titans WarCrab's sound was getting slower and sludgier, they do the expected and bring in death metal influences in a huge way. And it's not even in the form of a thick, ponderous blend of the two styles; instead, they've shedded the extra weight that was holding them down and have progressed in a faster, crustier direction.”
It seems I was pretty late to the party with Warcrab. I picked up on them back in June, when the first single from 'The Howling Silence' dropped. Hailing from Plymouth, which is a short drive from where I live now, and somewhere I have lived in the past, I was surprised that I’d never encountered them before. There aren’t many extreme metal bands from this neck of the woods that generate the level of hype they have, and with good reason. All of this, and the fact that they are signed to a label well known for putting out high-quality Death Metal infused with other extreme metal subgenres (shout out Transcending Obscurity, loving what you do!), makes me wonder how I’ve missed them for so long. But hey-ho, we’re here now, and with a ripper of an album to talk about, so let’s get to it.
Opener 'Orbital Graveyard' kicks off with some serious Death Metal groove and continues at the same pace throughout. It’s a track that builds on a single riff, which progresses to a breakdown, and is about as close to a “traditional” Death Metal song as you will hear on this album. There are definite shades of classic bands like Bolt Thrower and Carcass here. The galloping grooves and sneering vocals eschew Heartwork-era Carcass, while the more simplistic, yet brutal and effective riffing style is reminiscent of Bolt Thrower. While the influences are clear, Warcrab have created their own sound. A mix of Death Metal, Sludge and a hint of Stoner/Doom, which they seem to have perfected on this record. The blend of metal styles seems well considered, with the record moving along at relentless pace, then hitting the listener with slower, sludgier moments right when they are needed most.
The second track 'Titan of War', starts with a riff that brings in the aforementioned Stoner/Doom element. The guitar tone, and the pummelling drums produce a heavier sound overall, but the riff itself wouldn’t sound out of place on a High on Fire record. The vocals keep us firmly in the Death/Sludge arena, and the track continues like this until a perfectly constructed breakdown halfway through. After this, we move back into Death Metal territory and remain there for the duration. It’s so well executed, the effortless style-switching just works, and the transitions are seamless. 'Black Serpent Coils' starts with a bass-driven, Sabbath-esque intro, which builds into a heavier version of the riff (I love it when bands do this!) then transitions into a double-bass fury, tremolo-picked riffing and shredding solo. 'Sword of Mars' continues in this manner, driving things forward at pace, with guitarist Geoff Holmes ripping solo after solo until the end of the track. At this point, things shift and change. The first four tracks run at around 4/5 minutes, the fifth track is almost 9 minutes, and with a title like 'As the Mourners Turned Away', you can probably guess where we’ve shifted to.
Doom-drenched Sludge metal is where Warcrab really hit their stride. There is a sense of despair in the strained vocals, the guitars groove along with some of the finest Sludge riffs you are likely to hear. The slower, more considered leads fit perfectly and feel more at home than the faster leads from earlier in the album. The last three tracks on the album are all similar in this sense, all dripping in sludge and despair, with the last (and title track of the album) being a 10-minute epic.
'The Howling Silence' is a clear evolution of the band’s sound. A well-rounded, devastating album that should see the band embed themselves firmly in the extreme metal scene. It should find its place on many year-end lists, and rightfully so. The band deserves huge credit for experimenting with styles, and even more credit for making it work so well.
Release Date: November 3rd 2023
Released By: Transcending Obscurity