Hellripper's wild-eyed blackened speed metal was one of my favorite discoveries in 2015, and now, James McBain—the prolific Scottish musician behind that (as well as a host of other projects)—has thrown me for a loop with his latest endeavor, Lock Howl. It's still up-tempo, dark, and a little schlocky, but it's not another speed metal band—in fact, it's not metal at all. It's hella goth.
There's been a continuing phenomenon in extreme metal especially wherein we see formerly black or even death metal bands embracing goth style or influences in their music, experimenting with unexpectedly velvety aesthetics and melodic possibilities—and I am all about it. With that in mind, it's not altogether a surprise to see that Lock Howl cleaves firmly to gloomy, gothic post-punk, heavily influenced by classic 80s goth rock (especially in the vocals—McBain's impassioned baritone is pure vampire) and complete with a dab of atmospheric black metal influence.
McBain cites a melancholy hodgepodge of influences—Beastmilk, Agalloch, Editors, Joy Division, Opeth—but the end result feels far from fragmented or forced. Instead, Lock Howl has managed to seamlessly incorporate a passel of not-too-disparate influences into something that makes perfect sense (and would also make a ton of sense opening for Tribulation or Grave Pleasures).
The album will be released on cassette by US-based label Occult Whispers and on CD by Granite Factory Records on February 15. Listen below, I highly recommend it:
Kim Kelly is not goth, but she is on Twitter.