The Howling Void is, for the better part of two years, a band that comes to mind fairly often. After hearing the debut album by this one piece from San Antonio, Texas, we were left with a lot to think about, both good and bad. Sole member Ryan had, to his credit, infused some well conceived symphonics into the funeral doom style. But with tracks towering over the ten minute mark, it was often not enough to keep your attention. It remains one of the modern examples that longer isn't always better, even for melancholic doom metal. Two years and two releases later, Ryan returns with a new EP, one that stands at a robust but not terrifying two tracks, and 17 minutes. What he sacrificed in length, he can surely make up for in substance and skill. And with a full length album in the conception stages as we speak, "Runa" might stand to be the foundation for albums to come.
There is an immediate sense of improvement on " Irminsûl," the more towering of the two tracks. Having taken the symphonic elements to a new level here, Ryan has built a massive soundscape that is both ethereal and balanced. His airy, almost whispered vocals are a nice touch in the verse sections, while strings dominate the expansive middle passage. And, in addition to the great strides made in the songwriting process, the track is broken down into two large chunks, allowing for changes in tone and tempo. Rather than remain repetitive, the second half explores a more traditional doom sound, with periods of double kicks and heavy distortion, followed by clean guitars and airy synthesizers. The contrasting styles come together as one unit, and help to elevate each other. The run time almost seems short in this case, with no time spent on filler or droning riffs. The shorter "Nine Nights" follows, with a much more "in your face" nature. Here, the bass work becomes key in driving the early stages. The vocals are, once again, an asset to the mix, giving it a spatial quality. Adding in the sound of thunder and rain drops might seem cliche at this stage, but it works here, creating a mood that is furthered with every sweeping guitar melody. There is also a need to mention the production work, with some of the grave leveling mistakes of previous albums long forgotten by now. The mix remains balanced and well toned, while still giving off the intended emotional effects along the way.
While your musical choices are, of course, subjective, it is hard to represent them that way without sounding like an elitist. As "Shadows Over The Cosmos" entered and exited our rotation - rather quickly I might add - it was never the intention to downplay what Ryan has achieved as the only member of this project. The album just didn't click with me, and I was not alone. That being said, one misstep shouldn't be the end of a band, or your interest in them. Things change, bands evolve, and the artist behind your least favorite release of 2010, might produce your favorite of 2013. It would seem that The Howling Void has grown in leaps and bounds since their previous releases, changing and refining their sound in ways that would be almost hard to believe. This latest EP is the perfect example of giving bands second, or third, chances. If 2010 me knew that The Howling Void was responsible for one of my favorite releases of the year so far, he would think I'd gone mad. But things change. And "Runa" is proof.
Bandcamp - http://thehowlingvoid.bandcamp.com/
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/TheHowlingVoid