Vigils of the 3rd Eye is the debut release of American progressive death metal act Howls of Ebb. The term “progressive” applied to death metal usually signifies an attempt to focus on technicality and showing off, eschewing that what death metal should be – filthy, primal and evil. Enter Howls of Ebb – their début has a twisted progressive edge, yet retains that evil and filth the genre should have, while filled with their own originality. A stunning release from the new comers, Vigils of the 3rd Eye is an avant-garde progressive gem, albeit a murky, filthy unrefined one.
Strange dissonant guitar playing, twisted and insane comes in from the start. Sounding closer to the progressive metal leanings of Norwegians Atrox than any of the death metal greats, it’s the only possible point of reference for one of the most unique guitar performances heard in death metal. There’s so much variation to the guitar here it’s staggering. There’s strange progressive twists and turns, sections of out right pummelling, and a use of effects and different tones which really sets them apart. There’s discordant, twisting riffs at points, while the usual tremolo picked fury is also in place. But add strange, picked chord progressions and frantic solos, echoing reverb drenched twanging and mad experimentation, and there’s just so much craziness for one album. Simply put, the depth to the guitar performance here is staggering, delivering a churning maelstrom of twisted, trippy madness. Add to that some of the most sick growls imaginable, low caveman-like evil grunts, and you have another layer for their crazy sound. Belted out at speed they’re really intense. It’s just as varied too, with the snarls on the title track sounding incomprehensibly evil – low, guttural and frothing with beast-like fervour.
The best track is Of Heel, Cyst and Lung, sounding completely tripping and disturbing, with a great main riff, amongst insane melodies. Unexpected breakdowns, stopping and starting for discordant twangs, then suddenly unleashing twisted Autopsy-esque solos, the structure of the song is brilliant. All over the place, going from pummelling fury to an oppressive standstill in seconds, the echoing picked guitar creates an incredibly oppressive atmosphere, while the main motif throughout the song sounds fantastic in all it’s incarnations – fast and heavy, slow and trippy, consistently creative. The way it builds up to the chugged stomp in the middle is brilliant, and those rhythmic drum fills throughout are fantastic.
The drumming might mostly consist of d-beat assaults and blasts, but it’s primal and caveman-ish, clubbing the listener senseless, while the bass just rumbles away, cavernous and dark. The rhythm of course just provides the backdrop for those wonderful guitars and vocals, though they play their part spectacularly. A murky, dark production also gives a raw rough edge to Vigils of the 3rd Eye, sounding cavernous and completely evil. There’s no light to be found here, the entire thing is bathed in filth and darkness. You won’t hear another album like this all year, and you haven’t heard anything like it before. Vigils of the 3rd Eye is unique, trippy and brilliant. Absolute genius, don’t miss this one.