There’s a new incarnation of the 1970s acid rock jam band, and its name is Howlin Rain. From the extensive use of organ and electric guitar, to front man Ethan Miller’s growling, scratchy vocals, Howlin Rain and their second album, Magnificent Fiend, sound misplaced in time.The start of the album is somewhat misleading with opening track “Requiem.” With a tremolo piano and a horn solo, it creates a moody, bluesy atmosphere designed to serve as an overture to the album, but is stylistically unlike anything that follows.
Like many jam bands, Howlin Rain needs to reevaluate their work with a more critical ear. Unafraid to explore instrumental riffs and solos, Howlin Rain waits nearly a full minute and 30 seconds before the vocal starts on “Dancers at the End of Time.” The lyrics on the album, although largely unintelligible, are oblique and overly poetic. Furthermore, the frequent religious overtones throughoutâ€šÃ„Ã®”Lord have mercy on my soul” and “Jesus will shine on you brightly”â€šÃ„Ã®are hollow and uninspired.
Despite having only seven full-length tracks, the album still manages a hefty running time due to the jam band sensibility. The shortest song (discounting “Requiem”) is over five minutes long, and the longest clocks in at nearly eight minutes. Still, none of the songs manage to hook the listener with memorable lyrics or powerful melodic hooks.
The album ends with nearly thirty seconds of distortion, an annoyance at the end of a completely unsatisfactory musical journey. Ultimately, Howlin Rain brings nothing new to the table, failing to make their music sound modern or innovative. They disprove the adage that everything old is new again. With Howlin Rain, it just sounds old.