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Aural Pleasure Review

Howlin Rain: 'Russian Wilds'

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Coming from the ashes of the wildly noisy Comets of Fire, Howlin Rain's music bears little resemblance to that group's cathartic psychedelic sound, mining instead traditional classic rock and soul for inspiration. This can be dangerous territory, and consequently the band frequently teeters between the brilliant and the cheesy. Opener "Self Made Man" is a perfect example of how these aesthetics often wage war with each other. The song has some gorgeous moments, including an inspired David Gilmour-esque solo, but in between these bursts of genius lurk some of the most clichéd blues rock riffs this side of a Lenny Kravitz album. However, it's completely clear from the get-go that these dudes are stellar musicians and when they invest their time on interesting chords and arrangements (as on "Strange Thunder" and "Dark Side") the results transcend their influences beautifully. After the awkward opening tracks, the band hits a surprisingly soulful stride and mostly stays there for the remainder. When Howlin Rain subverts their classic rock template the results are extremely rewarding, but right now they're trying too hard to emulate when they should be trying to expand.

★★ ½ (out of 5 stars)

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