Release Date: December 6, 2013
Studio: Self-produced and recorded
Born out of Johnsburg, Illinois, Awe Howler is a quartet that may not instantly fly in the face of local music supporters. Given their surprisingly diverse musical background, however, the troupe has managed to amalgamate a new artistic vision within their music on The Beautiful Places That Don’t Use Words.
“Kingdom Come” opens the EP with a satisfying, mid-tempo pace, as vocalist and guitarist Jeff Leber’s wavering vocals evoke the style of a country gentleman. This type of vocal style within Awe Howler’s music allows them to break the mold a bit more than other bands similar to them. The way Leber’s vocals are presented carries his lyrics in a less downtrodden, depressive tone.
The band pulls off cohesion with seeming ease on “Kingdom Come.” For the grouping of genres that they fall under, the riffs on “Kingdom Come” intertwine smoothly and do not smother the listener. Drummer Josh Blackburn’s time-keeping behind the set is well-placed as he tosses in a few tasteful fills throughout. Bassist Phil Christiansen also calmly but articulately brings his own contributions to the table, issuing rhythm reinforcement that is not to go unnoticed.
Middle track “The Forest Floor” is the longest on the EP, and hears the band exploring their somber and mournful disposition in greater depth. Bassist Christiansen expands on his offerings even further on “The Forest Floor,” as he reaches into higher notes for well-timed phrases. Drummer Blackburn also continues to showcase his fluidity around the kit, demonstrating his talent through both restraint and activity, each when necessary. Throughout “The Forest Floor,” Awe Howler manages to walk the line between melodies that are hopeful and melancholy, lively and gloomy – a relative challenge for post-rock efforts. As the track begins closing out, guitarist Ryan Stofferahn opens up for some solo work, drawing the listener out of the pensive mood the band had stirred up.
“Made To Pieces” brings the EP to a close with Awe Howler’s most dynamic track on this release. The band makes great use of drawn-out, more dramatic phrasing on this song. Mid-way through the song, the band also brings in background orchestral instrumentation for a few bars, which provides an ideal accent for the vibe of the track. The EP is brought to a close with guitar feedback and static.
For a short run, The Beautiful Places That Don’t Use Words is a tasteful EP that manages to capture the band’s spirit in a mild-mannered inclination, that can be overlooked if not given time to truly soak in. For having produced this EP by themselves, Awe Howler issue up a release that is worth its weight, particularly coming from a local scene that is frequently crowded with other bands playing long-watered-down genres. The Beautiful Places That Don’t Use Words can be downloaded for the user’s price of choice on their Bandcamp, found below. Awe Howler has also released a Spring 2014 Demo that is available through the same site.
Underground Examinations is a series of Independent Music Reviews with the intention of giving new music a fair and appropriate opportunity to be enjoyed.
Review by Brad Johnson