Extreme metal, whatever that means at this moment!, is pretty well saturated across virtually all its subgenres. That makes it hard objectively to evaluate new artists: the leading lights of a particular sound are rapidly salient; thereafter as a reviewer it is difficult to separate the quality of a new release from the reference sample, so to speak.
So I’ll come right out and say it: “Howl And Filth” is good. But it sounds a lot like Tombs. Unless you’ve been under one of those proverbial rocks—or, “without internet access” to update the cliché for the Millennials—then you know what that means. Take sludge, blackened; toss with a heaped helping of Neurosis tribal drumming, season with sonic haze to taste and serve. These musical references come as no surprise: from the band’s own Bandcamp bio we read, “Fans of bands such as Unsane, Neurosis, Tombs and other forward thinking artists of that ilk will be pleasantly surprised. Generation of Vipers also features members of Neurot Recording artists U.S. Christmas and A Storm of Light.” And so it goes, on and on, the label-subgenre whirlpools both tighten and expand as they rotate; they envelope certain bands and albums and their fans even as they repel metal fans whose allegiance lies elsewhere.
The album art is eye-catching. That’s some creative taxidermy there: ram’s skull, bird’s wings in full feather, the spinal column might lure some Fear Factory fans…. Jesting aside, even in the digital download age presentation matters, and Generation of Vipers come across professionally from the visuals to the recording’s production values. There is really no excuse given today’s abundance of affordable recording technology for metal not to sound as powerful and polished as the band making it desires. “Howl And Filth” has the sound nailed—heaviness abounds.
There is a challenge that artists making this inherently introspective and plodding music face: how to involve the listener? The finest funeral doom bands have the solution figured out—surprise, in the form of a key change or tempo shift. Similarly, the champions of sludge convey the anger felt by the denizens of the scumbag life. Finally, the aforementioned Tombs themselves generate a juggernaut of dark energy that fells listeners and sweeps them along in a torrent. If “Howl And Filth” has a particular failing it is the absence of such a modus operandi, a lack of a take off moment or fully distinguishing characteristic.
Nevertheless, Generation of Vipers are on their way. An obviously talented group of players, if they can find their own special something, their own magical spark, they are fully capable of taking flight and only coming back to earth at will to crush skulls.