Howling Bells – ‘Radio Wars’ – Album Review

After the release of their eponymous debut album in May 2006, Howling Bells became the subject matter of somewhat humble underground mumblings. ‘Howling Bells’ (via Bella Union) was received with great enthusiasm upon inception by proponents and critics alike, and the band gained a cult following for their beguiling warmth and humility in their brooding orchestrations.

Its essence and perception, however, was somewhat esoteric in its reception. It was something transcendent and aurally consuming, becoming an anthem for the witching hour and those seeking solace and escapism in its expansive sound and emotional seduction.

Whereas their debut commercially fell upon deaf ears, their initial low-level utterances of critical prestige will proliferate with the release of ‘Radio Wars’ (Independiente); for what has been an industrial hiatus since their initial genesis has only aided and abetted in their creativity and word-of-mouth popularity and consumption.

“Treasure Hunt” opens with to a clarion call of new world order detail of rousing guitars and marching drums, paving the way for the slow burning “Cities Burning Down” and Juanita Stein’s velveteen vocal that carries on into a synthetic void of effects and timbres. They still manage to adore with their idiosyncratic precision for absorbing sound aesthetic, layering the likes of “Golden Web” and “Into The Chaos” with subtle arrangements and harmonies that covertly consume the listener; however, where it differs from their debut’s darkness, it resonates with the clarity of dawn due to furtherance within dexterity and production.

It is important to note that this is somewhat a collaborative effort with Dan Grech-Marguerat, sometime engineer to Nigel Godrich’s production (Air, Radiohead), who has played a dominant part in the mellifluous structure of what has been assembled. Some of the organic sincerity of the band’s previous lo-fi work may have been lost; but it’s his proficiency that frames their aural tapestry that has forwarded their progression and earnest artistry.

There are many overwhelming expectations for an artist to overcome with the release of their second album. The familiarity to which one has become initially endeared towards with the love and lust of a debut must still be adhered to; but it is pushing said sound with a sense of sagacious progression that is of most import, and why the Howling Bells’ ‘Radio Wars’ should receive the reverence it warrants.


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