Let’s start with what it’s NOT. This is not pop, this is not tourist music, this isn’t Cocaine or Sweet Home Alabama or Hotel California. It’s not safe, it’s not for the faint of heart, it’s not popular, and it sure as hell isn’t reggaetón. This isn’t light beer, wine coolers or fancy drinks with cute names served with an umbrella.
This IS the hard stuff, this IS music from the top shelf for dyed in the wool rockers and heavy metal head bangers. THIS IS HÖWLER!
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True to their name
Höwler is a self-made, thrash metal band from San José with a sound, a message and a name that is true to itself. The band members cater to no one but their own sense of musical destiny and socially conscious convictions, meant only to appeal to those of like mind and spirit with plenty of room on their bandwagon for those of you who can keep up.
The band name has nothing to do with the monkeys in Costa Rica, or this publication.
As Carlos “Charlie” Díaz, the lead singer and one of the band’s founders explains, “The name Höwler originated from the concept of werewolves, a mystical beast that transforms to show its true nature.”
Read into: be yourself, resist outside influences, and when the mood strikes, HOWL at the top of your lungs to your heart’s content and make no apologies for it. This concept becomes clearly evident when you witness Höwler live.
Who are they?
This band is made up entirely of Ticos but their original songs are all written in English. “Spanish thrash just sounds lame” laments Díaz.
And I guess it’s a good thing as this reality helps in a market and a niche that is decidedly narrow here in Costa Rica. Though Höwler has amassed an impressive body of work, releasing original music, producing videos and playing live over the years, it’s clear that typical “success” may not be realized in this tiny country.
This band is all about love for the music, and it might be said its lack of widespread popularity IS its success. Höwler is constantly tested, always reinvented and meticulously rehearsed, which explains the flawless execution on recordings and especially live performances. These musicians are hard and fast and precise as evidenced in their live presentation and body of work.
In addition to Díaz, who is lyricist as well as lead singer, the band members are: Jose ‘Fucas’ Mora, bassist and songwriter; Renan Obando, lead guitarist and songwriter; David Mora, rhythm guitarist; and Diego Arce, the latest in a long line of drummers.
“We really hope Diego sticks,” quips Charlie, “but those drummers … man, they’re crazy!”
History and discography
After the band’s inception around 2009, the fluctuating line-up eventually led to Höwler’s merging with another local band, Inhaler. Members of the latter group had similar musical and social sensibilities and were also experiencing the same state of flux that is common with bands of this genre in this region.
When the two bands came together, that’s when things really started to happen and Höwler’s unique voice was realized. The group’s commitment to creating its own original music spawned the first CD, Sign of The Lost, released in 2011.
Undeterred by the CD’s total lack of commercial success, band members persisted with years of writing, rehearsing and live performances that led to a modest following and the eventual release of their next effort Back To Madness in May 2014.
After tinkering with the lineup yet again, and going through another few drummers, Höwler committed to more writing, more rehearsing and toured around the country until the release of Phantoms of Society in 2017.
So with three CDs of original music released and several videos shot and self-produced, the band was buoyed by a modest following that showed up at shows, but did anything but pay the bills.
Charlie explains, “This is the reality of Costa Rica’s original music scene. There are a lot of ‘original music’ bands of all kinds, mostly focused in the Central Valley, and lots of those are metal bands. But the country lacks the artistic and musical media infrastructure that bands need to get popular.
Live venues are few and far between, and radio exposure is virtually non-existent, he points out.
“The fact is that if you don’t play reggaeton and cater to the ‘pop’ masses, you must depend on creating your own buzz on Facebook and YouTube and through live performances. But it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to make a living.”
This is evidenced by the fact that through all its efforts, Höwler has realized little more than a few hundred bucks in on-line sales over the years, which is an accepted reality here in Costa Rica.
So Jose, the bass player and founding band member, embarked on an exhaustive quest to build a following by contacting record labels, big and small, around the world to try to generate interest. The band also spread its wings and played in other countries like Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and in 2019, Mexico.
During this time, the musicians continued to write and by the end of the year, had yet another volume of work to lay down in the studio. In early 2020, they laid down tracks and fresh material was ready to release by April, but COVID-1 changed everything and delayed the CD’s release.
While the world quarantines, Höwler gets to work
While the pandemic brought the world to its knees, Höwler stayed busy honing its publicity package and on-line image. Group members produced more media and doing all those things they normally never have time for, like building buzz for the delayed release of their new record and videos.
While the band was biding its time, Jose’s relentless efforts finally paid off in June with the partnership of Höwler and Stephan Becker, owner of Ragnarök Records, a small label in Germany of all places. A relationship was forged, and with the new label’s help, No More Circus, was released in September of 2020.
This partnership produced immediate dividends in Germany where Höwler managed to procure a small, fanatical following that the band plans to visit post-pandemic. Hey, we all know what happened to the Beatles when they returned from Germany to England in 1964 … so who knows what might happen?
The here and now
As for now, Höwler plays for the love of the music, the collaboration and comradery of its members and its loyal following here in Costa Rica. As pandemic restrictions loosen up, the musicians will be looking to play everywhere and anywhere they can to get their howl on.
If you are a metal-starved head banger, I recommend you do the same. Though this writer has never thought of himself as much of a metalhead, there’s no way I’m missing Höwler if this group plays anywhere even close to me.
And if, perhaps, you can’t wait, and you feel the need to be ripped out of your chair at this present moment — and be reminded that you are indeed alive — cue up If You Want Peace, Prepare For War and CRANK IT! It works for me every time!
So what is Höwler?
The real deal. That’s what they are.
Don’t Be Lame!
Support Höwler and Local Original Music
Visit Höwler’s website
For bookings or to purchase Höwler music, email Charlie