Howling Sycamore - Seven Pathways To Annihilation review

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Band: Howling Sycamore
Album: Seven Pathways To Annihilation
Release date: June 2019

01. Mastering Fire
02. Departure
03. Initiation
04. Second Sight
05. Raw Bones
06. Tempest's Chant
07. Sorcerer

Last year Howling Sycamore released their debut self-titled album and I called it "the David Lynch of metal". They seemed to like that. Now they come back with the same cast, but they're no longer really like "the David Lynch of metal". Is that a good thing? A bad thing? Let's find out!

Their debut was so effective in gaining my attention and warranting a Lynch comparison solely due to how odd the instruments (namely the death metal blast beats, prog metal guitars and speed metal vocals) felt in their interactions with one another, so much so that I wasn't sure if it was genius or wack. I eventually decided on the former, especially now, when just one year later we have a second album from them in which the odd aspect of their music has been toned town. It was somewhat of a bummer on first listen, but even it no longer being avant-garde, Seven Pathways To Annihilation is still twice as out-there as most prog metal.

As I said, the cast is the same, namely the omnipresent Hannes Grossman, ex-Ephel Duath guitarist Davide Tiso, and ex-Watchtower vocalist Jason McMaster. Not only that, but Seven Pathways To Annihilation has three of the four guests of their debut as well (including the essential saxophone player), plus also Marty Friedman. So all of these would mean that we should've gotten Howling Sycamore in its exact weirdness again, but now Seven Pathways To Annihilation feels like an actual band effort, like a soup where all the ingredients finally mixed together.

And the fact that even so it still feels out-there is probably just prog metal's fault. Grossman's drumming focuses less on the blast-beats but still manages to clearly show his tech death roots. Tiso's guitar playing goes from surprisingly dissonant to surprisingly melodic in ways that capture some of that weirdness. And that is obviously best captured due to McMaster giving his absolute over-the-top performance, as if every piece of lyric must be sung with the uttermost passion. So yes, there is still some leftover weirdness, but this time we were expecting it, so the surprise of the contrast couldn't be a trick Howling Sycamore could pull twice. Hence why this album uses the saxophone only on the last track as opposed to just after the shock of the vocals in the first song as on the first album.

This album focuses a lot more on cohesive structures that give the feeling that this is a sound that prog metal has been having for years, expect that it doesn't and it totally should have. With their relatively long chorus-less songs, unusual blend of dramatic power metal vocals and tech death instrumentation and compelling solos, Howling Sycamore should be a lesson to more bands who complain that everything has been done before. Prog metal has no excuse not to follow suit.


Written on 30.06.2019 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.

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