Imagine, if you will, a blasting blackened version of arty ‘70s prog rock, like for instance Van Der Graaf Generator, complete with their penchant for complex dramatics and elaborate epics, saxophone also included. Or don’t imagine – just listen to what Howling Sycamore have conjured on their self-titled debut. An international project bringing together an intriguing array of underground talents, Howling Sycamore teams the main man behind Italian extreme metallers (and John Zorn fans) Ephel Duath with musicians from Obscura, Necrophagist, Yakuza, Gorguts and Dysrhythmia. Plus one more, most crucial, and also perhaps most unexpected component: none other than vocalist Jason McMaster of Texan tech-thrash legends Watchtower (and, also, hard rockers Dangerous Toys, let’s not forget!). McMaster’s shrieking spiked leather presence behind the mic is what ensures that Howling Sycamore is more metal than thou despite any accusations of prog-rock pretense, while at the same time, his versatile vocal ability, both melodic and histrionic, allows them to explore some very original and unusual territory for a ‘metal’ (or any other sort of) band. Whatever metal matchmaking service brought these folks together deserves major kudos.