maandag 14 juni 2021


If I remember correctly HOWRAH was my introduction to the Subroutine label. One that led me to discover several great alternative rock bands from The Netherlands since present on this blog. Three years have passed and here's HOWRAH's second album.

During my first listening session I was disappointed. It turned out that in those cold, dark and wet spring days, when I listened for the first time, I simply could not get into the mood required to enjoy Bliss. I had no need for more depressing darkness at that time.

Since then spring broke, finally, and Bliss opened up like the buds of the rhododendron, holding back, waiting for the sun. The different faces of Bliss and HOWRAH, that presented itself with the coming of bright sunshine, could not be described better.

The voice and intonation of singer/guitarist/songwriter Cees van Appeldoorn is an Ian Curtis light. It brings the mood of HOWRAH's music down, inevitably. The music itself is far more open. It is mixed in such a way that all the instruments can be heard loud and clear. It allows for the light to shine in between the drums, bass and two guitars and the little extra's here and there. The result is a, moodwise, mixed record, containing light and shade. In bring able to recognise the light, literally for me, the shade on Bliss was put into perspective, making the album grow.

The mix also allows for discovering the individual performances quite easily. Each nuance is easy to pick up and to enjoy at will. This is not common in the kind of alternative rock HOWRAH plays. More muddied and sludgy mixes are often what annoy me here. Not so Bliss. Everything Van Appeldoorn, new guitarist Bart Schotman, bassist Aico Turba and drummer Ineke Duivenvoorde play can be heard oh so clearly.

Over the foundation the drums lay down. the three men strumming and plucking the snares on their respective elements weave their parts in out of each others' parts. The result is songs that meander like the big rivers in the delta my country is, slowly but surely streaming downwards to the sea. All the spurts caused by mountains and hills have been left behind. The songs on Bliss are of the kind that develop slowly but surely. The urgency of youth left behind, the songs show a level of maturity and contemplation, while always interesting. A more complex rhythm, noise eruptions, delicate guitar parts, (the hint of a) keyboard, all make sure that this listener remains part of the experience. Enjoying the nuances HOWRAH presents.

Don't mistake my words for a complacent record. Just listen to album opener 'A Steady Beat Of Lies' and you will know enough. It took a load of sun for me to be able to get into Bliss. From that moment onward there's no looking back. Bliss is a more than nice addition to HOWRAH's now two record oeuvre.

Wout de Natris

You can listen to and order Bliss here:

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