Black Howling – Return Of Primordial Stillness Review

Band: Black Howling
Album: Return of Primordial Stillness
Label: Signal Rex
Genre: Black Metal
Country: Portugal
Release Date: July 27th, 2018

Hailing from Portugal, Black Howling entered the black metal scene in 2001 and released their debut record in 2003. Return of Primordial Stillness marks their six full-length album. In this day and age of endless music possibilities, it is easy to overlook the artists that are still keeping the core genre going. These guys and this album are unquestionably black metal without the need to get too caught up in various subgenres.

The first song, “Iberia”, feels like an intro track despite its near six-minute length. It sets the mood with its slow and depressive riff that could be found on a doom record. Halfway through, the band shifts into a melodic side that is incredibly pretty, but feels slightly out of place until the reprisal of the “doom riff” in the last minute of the track. Although this track stands on its own, by the time it ends and the next track starts, it (un?)intentionally serves as an introduction. That and the contrast between the slow, drudging guitars and the chaotic blast beats of “Celestial Syntropy” all point my ears in the direction of an introduction song. Similar to Queen’s “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions”, it is its own song, but feels better when paired with its other half.

After all that talk of introduction, it’s time for the meat and potatoes of this album that I am deeming the “Celestial Duo”. Comprised of two parts, these two tracks are similar and opposite. The first part is entitled “Celestial Syntropy” and syntropy is (roughly) defined as “a tendency towards order and organization.” That being said, the overall music itself isn’t exactly organized, but it paints an atmosphere within which it is hard to imagine anything else other than at the cosmic scale.

One of the things I love about this record is the band’s use of tempo. They are clearly not afraid to slow things down for the sake of the art. This is exceptionally prominent in the transition between “Celestial Syntropy” and “Celestial Entropy”. The last portion of “Syntropy” slows its pace from its cacophony of blast beats and distorted guitars into a downtrodden beat of gloomy melodies at the start of “Entropy”. And, for those curious, entropy is (loosely) defined as “lack of order or predictability.”

With the definition of entropy, it would seem that this particular track would be complete pandemonium but it stays rather low key for the first six minutes of the track. It serves as one long crescendo and moves to a unique riff that sounds like it could have belonged in an 80s hair metal song. I won’t say it doesn’t fit—it actually continues push the song forward—but it is surprising. After that, the raw black metal aesthetic comes in full force at the climax, but doesn’t stay long. The track descends into a bleak pit of despair that eventually lives up to its title, creating a sense of such disarray that the listener can easily become lost.

After the two “Celestial” mammoths, the album ends on a (unlike what the track title would suggest) soft note. It’s easy to see this as the outro track and it is a wonderful contrast to its predecessor. It’s recording quality is noticeably different than the prior tracks, which does disturb the reverie a little bit, but I realize that this is most likely because it easier to track a few guitars as opposed to a full band.

Having never heard anything else by this band, I have nothing to critique it on other than the actual merit of this music itself. These guys are clearly veterans in the scene and it shows. These aren’t that can be written in a first attempt. It is wonderful cosmic journey filled with dissonance and beauty. It isn’t without its bumps though. Every once in a while I would notice the drums timing wouldn’t be one-hundred percent consistent, or something wouldn’t line up quite right. But it’s not enough to give the album a negative review. It does deserve to be heard and explored. And while it may not offer anything particularly new to the genre of black metal, it is certainly keeping it alive.

Rating: 7/10

Track Listing:
1. Iberia
2. Celestial Syntropy
3. Celestial Entropy
4. Cosmic Oblivion

Total Playing Time: 39:31

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