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GOWLOn : he talked to me like I was real

Worth your attention: the uncompromising experimentation of GOWLOn's debut EP.

Doom is a strange beast to properly define these days, stretching, as it does, between the far distant shores of glacier-slow total noise and gallopingly anthemic riff festivals. Even attempting to view Extreme and Trad styles as different beasts entirely doesn't narrow it down much: within both camps lie enough variety to make the genre boundaries more of an abstract attitude than a set of clear musical attributes. Sometimes, I see it most simply as an absence of any other, more rigid, label - the poor, dispossessed bastard musical children of disparate parents, united only by a stubbornly non-commercial, existentialist artistic integrity. Clearly, there are plenty of exceptions - obviously, the well-established sounds of the main sub-genres, for a start, but the links between them and the limits to which they reach are a far more nebulous prospect.

Which brings me to GOWLOn, whose apparently interchangeably alternates of GOWLO.n, Der GOWLOn or GOWLO|/| give it a certain nebulousness right from the off. One of those solo instrumental projects which lurks on the intersection of many different borders, shaped not by particular musical discipline, but by an individual desire to capture and voice something innate and personal. At first hearing, it seemed a little too far out to fit under even the broad umbrella defined above, with a Black Metal feel pervading large parts of the EP. It wasn't until after a conversation with GOWLO.n's creator (some of which is captured in this site interview) that it became clearer as to the intent behind 'he talked to me like I was real'.

Purists may still find that the somewhat pacy nature of the three longer sections pushes it more towards the realms of experimental Black Metal than anything else, but that would be giving little credit to the Sludge- and Drone-derived infusions around and underlying the uptempo sections, and to the overall feel of cold, dark and ultimately grimy expressiveness layered into the sonic tapestry. If you like, it has too much of a genuine, chaotic, human quality to it for the Doom elements to be easily subsumed into any other genre. Turbulent and brutal as it is, you could still point to the storming fury of Zatokrev, alongside the bludgeoning Black/Doom atmospheres of Eibon or Mourning Dawn, as valid parallels. Only the lack of vocals, forcing full attention to focus on the instrumental progression, makes GOWLOn seem initially and somewhat superficially removed from that same sort of musical space.

So, what 'httmlIwr' actually does is shoot from the hip - or more accurately, the heart - traversing its material by feel and instinct, ignoring rules and theoretical preconceptions in favour of creating context. To that end, the main driver is distorted and sludgy guitar, almost improvisational (though nonetheless tightly controlled) in its willingness to shift pace and pattern as the moment demands. Set against that, often competing for the foreground, is the heavy percussion of insistent bass and well-programmed drums, but there are a number of neat little touches provided by ambient sound samples and keys which very subtly and effectively flesh out the tracks. Sharp edges of dissonance cut into the mix at times, industrialised background pulses slip in and out of focus, wilful changes of direction add new angles to the compositional development, and at the centre of all those entropic contrasts rages a fascinatingly stormy trip through dark waters. There's little distinction between tracks: the whole best taken as a single continuous piece comprising various movements, with the comparative brevity of the EP making it easy to encompass that sense of completeness.

To be completely clear, whatever hesitation I may have shown over trying to classify GOWLOn (an unfortunate necessity being provision of some sort of on-site label), I've never had any doubt whatsoever about the skill on offer, or the gloriously uncompromised and determined way in which it is expressed. Which is why I can also mention the work that goes into each individually-bagged, hand-produced, wire-wound and wax-sealed cassette to complete the labour of love which this clearly is: the privilege of hearing about such things early, and directly, meant that I was lucky enough to buy the handwritten #1 copy for myself. Having done so, it might seem redundant to offer further endorsement, but I will anyway: if your tastes run to the experimental, the heartfelt and the brilliantly obscure, give this a try.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. blue dancing, red nothing, green smoking
2. Lava #1
3. he talked to me like I was real
4. Lava #2
5. lights over phoenix

Duration : Approx. 24 minutes

Visit the GOWLOn bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-05-17 by Mike Liassides
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