The Howling Tides are a hard rock band hailing from the midlands, comprised of four lifelong friends fusing energised musicianship with powerful, potent songwriting. Taking influence from legends of rock, metal, blues and beyond, the band strike out with a refreshingly original sound and vibe that’s all their own. 

The Staffordshire band launches into the EP’s first track, Cheap Painkiller, with Luke Lawley’s wah-pedal-infused bass line, ominously whirring and setting the scene for Hayden Kirk’s crunchy, Sabbath-esque guitar riffs to roar the rest of the track to life. Though the verses, driven by Rob Baynes’ vocals and Lawley’s bass lines, are relatively short, they are very much ‘to the point’ and effectively build up to the anathematic powerhouse that is the chorus. The chorus of Cheap Painkiller is exemplary to say the least, highlighting each of the members’ complementary abilities; Baynes’ nostalgia-inducing baritone wailing is reinforced by Lawley and Kirk’s hard-hitting, full-sounding, harmonious guitar and bass riffs, with Steven ‘Herbie’ Herbert’s crash-heavy drum lines tightly wrapping up the package. The brief, undistorted, isolated guitar bridge in the latter part of the song leads into Kirk’s guitar solo, equal parts melody and glamour, before the final chorus ends the track on a metaphorical high note.

The EP’s second track, Death by Exile, begins with a stereophonic, call-and-response barrage of guitar-rock decadence. Though the song follows in the footsteps of the previous track (having thinly-layered-yet-impactful verses that build into wall-of-sound choruses), Death by Exile remains distinctive by effectively expressing different influences, being far more Country and Blues orientated than Cheap Painkiller, with absolutely no expense to heaviness.

By the EP’s third track, He Told Me, it becomes definitively apparent that the tracks have a sense of a welcomed consistency; a tried-and-true approach to songwriting that ensures listeners know what to expect, while also being different enough to remain unique and interesting. Like the previous tracks, He Told Me roars to life with a guitar riff calling the rest of the band to action, with the line being far more country/southern rock orientated than the previous (again, with no expense to heaviness). The staccato-emphasised guitar playing during the verses provides a sense of punchiness unheard this far into the EP, placing further emphasis on Baynes’ vocal performance, before leading into another sensationally anathematic chorus. He Told Me provides perhaps the most engaging narrative on the EP, lyrically depicting an encounter with the devil that is only further strengthened by the musicality of the track, with the anathematic chorus, story and melodies resonating with the listener well after the song has ended.

Crack My Soul deviates away from the blues-like riffs of the previous tracks and instead presents the Howling Tides’ equivalent of garage rock glory. The EP’s lead single is packed with power, very sparingly offering any breathing room over its’ three-minute run-time; from the melodic, guitar-centric introduction, through to the masterfully purposeful solo, the track has plenty to offer and stands out on what is already a memorable EP.

The EP’s closing song, Running Blind, maintains the momentum felt throughout Crack My Soul, yet feels like a more refined track. Instrumentally, Running Blind, demonstrates the bands’ ability to know when to step back, with the guitar and bass being used very sparingly (yet very effectively) during the verses, before becoming more prevalent during the chorus. The chorus for Running Blind felt as though it stood out from the rest of the EP, most likely due to the minor feel that positively juxtaposes against the major feeling tonality of the verses. As with the rest of the tracks, Running Blind is an example of a band where each member understands’ their role within the group; no single person stands out as all of the members complement one another. The pulsating conclusion of the track marks the end of a great song at the end of a very solid EP.

Overall, The Howling Tides have delivered something for their fans to be proud of with the self-titled EP. Though all five tracks are structured similarly, they are well written and have enough points of differentiation to remain unique and engaging, making the EP something I would strongly recommend any fan of hard rock to listen to.