Delivering 29 minutes of sharp modern black metal, Houle is an album full of melody, atmosphere, and flowing violence.
This is music primarily formed from scything guitars, expressive melodies, immersive atmosphere, and blistering speed. Think a mix of Vorga, Windir, and Naglfar, combined with some heavy metal and post-rock elements. Of the latter, I wasn’t expecting these, but they’re most welcome and add both texture and nuance to Houle’s material. The band’s ocean-themed music is professionally delivered and it is clear that Houle know how to craft their music of choice.
The songs are well-written and the use of melody is particularly well-formed. Many of the leads and solos are strikingly effective, evocative, or emotive, (or all three), and Houle are to be commended for their application of these. Arranged around the music’s core blackened assault are lighter moments that offer immersive atmospheric breathing spaces. These remind of the equivalent parts of Iron Maiden’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, at least until the black metal attack explodes into being once again.
The vocals are raw and savage, and frequently unhinged. They’re performed in somewhat of a punk manner much of the time, while at others they’re just imbued with the spirit of pure cutting aggression. I wasn’t expecting the more emotive semi-clean vocals either, but when these appear I like them a great deal.
Houle is an accomplished and well-realised debut album. Houle have made a notable impact, and produced a highly recommended listen.