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The Howling Wind – Into the Cryosphere

If the world were just, Ryan Lipynsky would be a guitar hero. His mug would grace magazine covers. Pimply-faced kids would pore over transcriptions that looked like Pollock paintings, trying to imitate his riffs.

Of course, they would fail. Lipynsky’s style could come from him only – his fingers, his amps, his pedals. He’s not a shredder. That’s why he’s not considered a “guitar god”. But he’s a Guitar Player, more so than the sweep-picking legions who turn the instrument into a video game. His axe speaks. It grumbles, it roars, it breathes black clouds.

Lipynsky’s style is beautifully elusive. He’s got riffs, tons of them. But he’s also willing to destabilize them by throwing in “wrong” notes, or to deny them conventional chord progressions. His playing pulls the rug out from under you. The sound is “sick” and “greasy”, yet heavy – no quotation marks.

His main band, Unearthly Trance, would be classified as “sludge”. But they don’t have sludge’s typical bent: bluesy-beard-potbelly-weed. Maybe offstage they indulge in such things. But onstage, they’re a middle-aged trio tilting at New York’s concrete jungle. In the right settings – hot, small rooms with fellow flinty-eyed souls – they often win.

Heat is what I associate most with Lipynsky’s playing. So it’s interesting to hear him pack it in ice. The Howling Wind is his black metal-oriented band after his previous one, Thralldom. That band was sprawling, almost psychedelic.  In contrast, the first Howling Wind record, Pestilence & Peril, was focused and relatively dry. It suggested the result had Hellhammer known what they were doing.

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Into the Cryosphere liner notes

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Now comes Into the Cryosphere (Profound Lore, 2010), which is ostensibly more wintry than an Immortal record. There’s the title, there’s artwork full of mountains and snow, there’s a lyrical obsession with cold. Sample lines: “Daymares of ice / Nightmares of dislocation / Teeth of frost / Relentless themes of tundra”.

I’m not buying it. This record feels hot. It has Unearthly Trance all over it – that friction, that sense of clambering up big boulders. Meanwhile, drums grind and crush those boulders. Lipynsky’s pedal board practically glows. He’s squeezing out crooked lines of lightning. Riffs rumble like bulldozers. If this record is cold, it’s in the sense of the aurora borealis: a whole lotta electricity.

Maybe those who buy black metal’s “electric guitars in Norwegian forests” shtick will find this cold. It doesn’t matter, really. Some people run hot, some people run cold. You say Celsius, I say Fahrenheit. Ryan Lipynsky says, “Bow down to my riffs, motherfucker”.

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— Cosmo Lee

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Got Photoshop skills? I will give away a copy of this CD to anyone who can make a fictional Guitar World or Guitar Player magazine cover featuring Ryan Lipynsky. If there are multiple entries, I will post all of them and pick my favorite as the winner. Email entries as hi-res images to invisibleoranges at gmail dot com by midnight EST, Sunday, May 30.

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Amazon (MP3)
Amazon (CD)
eMusic (MP3)
The End (CD)
Relapse (CD)
Profound Lore (CD)

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