Paying tribute to heavy metal is not something many bands have attempted since the likes of AC/DC, Manowar and the immortal Ronnie James Dio were in their heyday. There’s no telling why that is, but if Howl’s debut record, Full Of Hell, is any indication, heavy metal is as important a style of music—a culture, as it ever was.
Negative press, of course, has always dominated coverage in mainstream media. We’ve all heard how many crimes have been committed because of metal’s violent imagery. What we don’t hear is the countless lives this aggressive music has saved, made worthwhile or, at the very least, brought genuine joy and happiness to.
A decade ago, Vincent Hausman, guitarist and vocalist for Providence, Rhode Island’s Howl, was struggling to find his place. After hearing an Ozzy Osbourne tape, going to a Sick Of It All show and getting a copy of Far Beyond Driven by Pantera as a gift from a friend, his purpose became clear. He wanted to play heavy metal and he wanted to make a career out of it.
Full Of Hell isn’t exactly a feel-good album and Howl is certainly not their generation’s Van Halen. Their songs are as head-crushing as anything out there and their live show is as good as it gets. But as Hausman told The Aquarian Weekly, their debut album is his band’s homage to everything metal has given them. And if Hausman’s limitless enthusiasm and infectious grinning on-stage is any indication, they’re happy to be where they are right now and excited for what the future holds, for Howl and their contemporaries.
How did Howl start?
Howl started about three and a half years ago. The drummer [Timmy St. Amour] and I were friends and we started playing music together as a two-piece.
We did a couple tours on our own. It was instrumental, with just guitar and drums. Then, we just wanted to expand our sound, so we teamed up with Rob Icaza, a friend of ours that I was playing in another band with. He joined on bass and we were a three-piece for just a couple of shows and then Andrea [Black] saw us play live and just asked, “Hey, do you wanna jam with a second guitar player?” So, that’s kind of how the lineup came together.
Once we formed the current lineup we did a couple of DIY tours that we booked ourselves and we self-released a demo. Then on one of the tours, Relapse got a hold of a copy and came to see us for a couple of shows and offered us a deal.
Wow, so what was being approached by Relapse like?
It was awesome, man. It was the classic story of getting together, playing music you love, working really hard and then getting noticed and getting picked up by a label that you admire and that you’ve been listening to for a while. We were really excited, you know. I don’t believe they signed us cause we were ‘ex members of [some other band].’ No one’s been in a huge band or anything like that. It really felt like going from having a dream in your practice space to it becoming a reality, getting a record deal from Relapse. Really wild, man, and really exciting for us.
Even that amount of time is short for a band to be together and then get a record deal and everything.
Yeah, I guess. It’s not unheard of or anything, but considering the fact that we didn’t really have anything out, like a lot of releases, it is remarkable. I feel like a lot of bands that Relapse picks up, or any of the bigger labels pick up, already have a couple releases under their belt. So, yeah, we were, and remain, very excited about that.
Are you a fairly precise band, as compared to what gets put on record and what gets played live, or is there a lot of improvising going on?
In that capacity, we are very particular. A lot of stock goes into the songwriting. It’s not like we just get together and just jam and jam and then that’s our song. Just in terms of a general sound or style, that’s not something that we’re very concerned with. I don’t think anybody would say, when we’re writing a song, “Oh, that sounds to too thrash metal or that’s too black metal or anything like that.” Whatever sounds good is what we do.
You mentioned that you and Timmy started Howl as a two-piece, with no vocals. What made you decide to take on that role as the vocalist?
We recorded a demo with [the two-piece] and after listening to it for a while we felt like we needed something else, and that it would be even more awesome with vocals.
Were vocals something you practiced?
Well, I had been a singer before, in another band. But I was just a singer, not a singer/guitar player. So initially, it was weird being a singer and playing guitar at the same time. But yeah, man. Practice, practice.
Is it hard to get a riff under your fingers and also be able to vocalize at the same time?
It is, but it gets easier over time. I really had to think about it when I first started doing it, but now it takes me less and less time to be able to sing and play a part at the same time.
And when Andrea joined the band, were you thinking that you needed a second guitar player to sort of take some of that load off of yourself?
That’s not the reason behind it, that’s not how I felt about it. Because, I’ll be fine doing what I’m doing and I feel like my own performance should stand on its own. It was more that there are more benefits in terms of what you can do in making parts more interesting. You know, having dual harmonies happening at times. Those are all benefits of having a second guitar player. And that’s really why we decided to go with Andrea.
The first time I saw you guys, was in Milton, Connecticut, when you were playing with EyeHateGod. I knew that I liked you, but it was really the live performance that put you guys over the top for me. What was that tour like?
First of all, it’s good to hear that we were able to deliver live, man. That’s awesome. The thing with EyeHateGod was only three shows. They were a blast. Those dudes were awesome and crazy, in a good way. We got to play with Nachtmystium, too.
And I saw you in the mosh pit in that show, so you obviously dug it.
Oh yeah, man. That’s a beautiful thing. EyeHateGod has been a band that I have loved for a while, so I never stop becoming a fan.
Sometimes I wonder about that. Why dudes from other bands that they’re on tour with aren’t going crazy [when the other band is on stage], if they’re fans of [that band]. Even when we were playing with [EyeHateGod] I was like, “Holy shit, it’s EyeHateGod!”
Well, it definitely showed. One of the things that I really enjoy about seeing you guys is all the smiling you do while you’re playing. I mean, that’s how I feel when I listen to this kind of music, and you guys seem to really have a love for it.
Yeah, man! Absolutely. A lot of times I’m playing and I’m like, “Holy shit, this riff is awesome!” [Laughs] If you’re not having a good time, what the fuck are you doing it for?
Before that show, I never knew that you had a girl in the band and, I have to admit, when I saw Andrea setting up for the first time, I cracked a joke to my friend like, “Yeah, how much do you wanna bet she plays bass?” But, beyond the music, I think having her in the band really helps to set you guys apart. It’s rare to find a girl at an extreme metal show at all, let alone playing guitar in a band. How do you think people have reacted to her?
You know what; I think it’s been similar to what you’re describing. “Oh, girl in a band probably plays bass.” Then we play and I think that people respect that. And if it sets us apart and makes us a little bit more memorable, then that’s fine, too. We’re just a bunch of friends getting together to play music. But, I understand that to outsiders it might be a point of interest, or something different about us.
Who did the artwork for Full Of Hell?
This friend of ours named Ryan Begley. He works for a shirt printing and design company in Boston called Shirts & Destroy.
When you were doing the lyrics for the album, was there an underlying theme that you were calling back for every song?
For me, Full Of Hell is, loosely, a tribute to heavy metal itself. That’s who we are, the metalheads, we are full of hell. We got into metal because we didn’t feel comfortable in church or in high school, you know? We were told we were to be ashamed of how we feel and what we like.
I think a lot of people feel alienated. They think they’re alone and they don’t really know how to express themselves and they find heavy metal and all that it gives you. The likeminded people, that sense of rawness and power that you find in the music. Whatever role metal has played in your life, in terms of something positive and being able to celebrate who you are with these other “freaks” or whatever, that’s kind of what the album is celebrating a little bit, thematically, lyrically.
[It’s] been a while since I’ve seen band and their lyrics pay tribute to that. I’ve listened to metal for a long time, I’ve been in different bands and this was going to be the first full-length that I was going to be a big, big part of and that I was going to write all the lyrics for and it was going to be a way of appreciating metal. I thought, “Yeah, that’s what this record should be about.” And it’s perfect with the artwork and the title.
What got you into metal?
I heard a tape by Ozzy Osbourne when I was about 11 years old, and I had just never heard anything like it. I remember that kind of sparked my interest and got me into rock and then hard rock and then heavy metal.
When I was in high school, that’s where the excitement was at, at these shows. And I remember I saw Sick Of It All when I was like 14 or something like that. I went to this show and, it may not have been the first concert I had ever been to but, it was definitely my first heavy music concert. I remember the show starting and I’m thinking to myself, “Alright, this is what I want to do.”
High school for me was an uncomfortable time. My parents were getting a divorce, so the home front, for me, was not the most comfortable place for to be, and I felt excitement and a sense of inclusion at shows, watching bands. For a while I was a promoter. I just wanted to be part of things and in the middle of it all.
And then, one day in high school, I did this kid a favor. I did his homework or lent him some money, or something like that, and as a show of appreciation he gave me this cassette tape and it was Far Beyond Driven by Pantera. And that changed everything, in the sense that, it really expanded my ‘unmetal’ conscience.
So, it was sort of an escape for you.
A little bit. I don’t really see it as an escape, necessarily. But I do see it as a place that was healthy, positive and uplifting. It was a place to meet other people and connect with people and make friends, start a band. And that’s why I think that it is to be celebrated. I think that music scenes like that can mean a lot for people.
If you’re a teenager with a bullshit home or family situation, there’s no music scene or whatever, what are you going to do? Probably get into trouble or end up getting into heavy drugs or shit like that. People sometimes forget the social value of the hard music thing.
Going with that inclusion theme, have you had that opportunity to sort of fraternize with your brothers on Relapse?
Absolutely, man. Black Tusk, Baroness, Tombs, Rob chilled with Black Anvil, Zombi—yeah, man, everyone we’ve met in another Relapse band has been cool.
It’s a really cool thing, what has been happening in the underground metal scene. Bands like us, Black Cobra, Black Anvil and Zoroaster—kind of the sludgier, doomier bands are really doing well right now. It’s really awesome to be a part of that.
What do you think is next for Howl?
Well, we’re on tour with Valient Thorr right now for another three weeks, then we’ll be home for another two or three weeks. Then we go out again with Every Time I Die in November and hopefully soon after that we’re going to start working on the new record, start writing. Then we’re doing something else in the spring. A lot of touring, man. And the new record hopefully, not too long from now.
Have you guys been able to write anything new or has it been mostly shows?
It’s been mostly shows, man. We really want to get a good amount of touring in support of Full Of Hell and make sure that it gets into people’s hands.
Howl’s debut album, Full Of Hell, is available now on Relapse Records. Howl will be playing at Sept. 23 at the Southpaw in Brooklyn, NY. Myspace.com/howlheavymetal.