Written by Kirk
Howling Giant – Glass Future
> Progressive stoner rock
> Tennessee, US
> Releasing October 27
> Magnetic Eye Records
Have you ever listened to a band that sounds so good that it’s made you feel physically ill? And I’m not talking a little tummy ache, either; this is full-blown nausea because the jealousy is simply oozing from your pores. If so, which Howling Giant release was it that caused you to feel this way? Mine was Ripple Music’s Turned to Stone Chapter Two: Masamune & Muramasa, their split album with fellow stoner rock titans Sergeant Thunderhoof. Like, I’d heard Howling Giant were amazing, but I’m also one of those skeptics when it comes to things everyone raves about. I mean, it can’t be that good, can it?
Turns out it can, and Howling Giant is living proof. Who else can take a simple split album and turn it into an epic tale of two of the most legendary swords ever forged? WHO DOES THAT? If you answered, “Howling Giant,” you’re not wrong, and they have the body of work to prove it. Forged in December 2014, they’ve managed to self-release three EPs, a debut album on Blues Funeral Recordings, the aforementioned split album on Ripple Music, and contributed to several cover albums for both Magnetic Eye Records and Ripple Music. To put it mildly, they’ve been busy. But now they’re ready to unleash their sophomore album, Glass Future, on Magnetic Eye Records, and I can say without a single ounce of hyperbole that I don’t know the stoner rock world is ready for it.
You see, Howling Giant isn’t just a stoner rock band. I mean, they have stoner rock riffs—a lot of them, in fact—but they have a wealth of progressive rock influences that can be felt all over this record. In addition to your standard guitar, bass, and drums, these songs are riddled with texture provided by a plethora of keyboard parts. Simple touches, but they make a massive difference and give an ethereal, otherworldly feel that’s become fairly synonymous with the band’s overall sound. Think Pink Floyd meets ASG—instead of drifting through the cosmos in a dreamlike state, you’re surfing amongst the stars like the Silver Surfer, drunk on The Power Cosmic. Everything around you is so bright and full of color, and the universe is your oyster; it’s up to you to reach for that pearl.
Now, if you’ve been following Howling Giant since the beginning, you’ve noticed the evolution of their sound. Long gone is that dense, stuffy, compressed production heard on their debut EP (it was remastered and re-released by Blues Funeral Recordings in 2019 and sounded thoroughly refreshed), and what has taken its place is something so lush and vibrant that it’s hard to believe you’re listening to the same band. But what is it about Glass Future that makes it so special? For starters, it’s the first full-length record that Sebastian Baltes has had a hand in the writing process. The chemistry he shares with his fellow bandmates Tom Polzine (guitar) and Zach Wheeler (drums) is undeniable; the same level of dynamic creativity that made “Masamune” such a masterpiece has gone into into this new record, and it’s brought the band to a completely different level. And if Sebastian’s last name looks familiar, that’s probably because he’s the son of Accept’s former bassist, Peter Baltes. I guess playing bass runs in the family!
Before I get into everything else that makes Glass Future such a fantastic record, I have to address the fact that it has committed (at least for me) one of the cardinal sins of albums: one of the best songs is at the very beginning. No, I’m not talking about “Hourglass”; that’s an intro track. I’m talking about “Siren Song” in all five minutes and ten seconds of its glory (and man, oh man, is it glorious!). I mean, right out of the gate, the band is on fire. Everything about this song is in perfect harmony—the guitars, the drums, the vocals, the keyboards—and it’s just begging for a music video. Something where the band is lost on some remote planet and trying to find their way home (think Homer’s The Odyssey but in outer space) as they leap from one adventure to another. Seriously, this song is absolutely a 10/10; it’s a masterpiece.
My gripe with putting such a dynamically bombastic song so early in the album is that it becomes a dragon (see the album cover) the other songs try desperately to catch. Some come closer than others, but, at least for me, none quite succeed. “First Blood of Melchor” comes pretty close with those chugga-chugga riffs and that beautiful cowbell (you can never have enough cowbell). The title track also comes pretty close to reclaiming that level of energy, as does “Sunken City” and “Juggernaut” with their killer breakdowns and vocal harmonies. The rest of the album is fantastic, too, with slower, more contemplative songs like “Aluminum Crown” and “There’s Time Now”, as well as slightly proggy songs like “Hank in a Hurricane” and “Tempest, and the Liar’s Gateway”. All in all, this is a fantastic album and a truly stellar leap forward for Howling Giant as a whole. If you’ve been sleeping on this band, please, for the love of everything (un)holy, wake up!
THE BOTTOM LINE
Sure, there are times when it’s perfectly fine to cross your arms, stand firm, and say, “I’m not changing my mind!”, when it comes to how you feel about certain genres. In absolutely no way, shape, or form am I one of those people—I love it when bands get creative with their influences—but I understand that not everyone gets as irreverently excited about this stuff as I do. Plenty of metalheads hear the word “progressive” and go running for the hills, but things can be a little progressive without getting too weird. Howling Giant might be the least progressive of any band whose music can be described as “progressive _____” that I’ve ever heard, and that’s okay. These guys aren’t out here writing twelve-act concept albums about the perils of space travel, just a bunch of fun songs that just so happen to take place on other planets. And if that’s not something you’re into, I only have one question: Why do you hate fun?