After issuing a couple EPs and singles, Ice Howl has released a proper follow-up to 2016’s Crack the Earth with Cadence of the Cursed. The more aggressive riff sets and harsher vocals that had developed with those shorter releases are largely downplayed, but the more confident clean singing and power metal-inspired lead guitar reflects the passage of time. It’s also nice to see a return to the weight and atmosphere that best comes with a full-length release.
Ice Howl’s overall makeup is still defined by a mix of stoner rock and classic metal, but tracks are more prone to playing up certain aspects of their style. “Lifestream” and “A Wizard’s Death” start the album off with its most stoner-friendly numbers, the former making for a swinging instrumental while the latter features steady mid-tempo grooves and catchy vocal layering. Tracks like “False Hope” and “Way of the Voice” channel the band’s heavy metal influence with their driving tempos and uplifting guitar harmonies, the former track in particular offers one of the band’s most impactful choruses to date.
The album’s most dramatic outlier comes with its two-part title track(s). “Cadence of the Cursed: Revival” is simple enough as a quiet two-minute instrumental interlude, but the “Rapture” segment is a behemoth that sees them at their doomiest. While the upbeat trots bookending the track remind me of Grand Magus, the song itself is more reminiscent of Sleep with its droning rhythms and mantric vocals. It would’ve benefitted from a tighter structure, especially when “Rapture” is nearly twelve minutes long, but it’s an interesting venture.
While I prefer Crack the Earth by a hair, Cadence of the Cursed is the most developed iteration of the Ice Howl sound. The songwriting feels more focused, and the musicianship is more confident, allowing the fusion of stoner and heavy metal to stay cohesive throughout. I always appreciate this bright yet wintery mood, and the combination of varied songs with a compact runtime invites repeat listens. There’s room for improvement, but this is a fun slice of metal worth checking out.
“A Wizard’s Death”
“Way of the Voice”