Born in Australia, raised in London, and graduating with their third album recorded in the Nevada desert, Howling Bells have toured with the likes of Coldplay and The Killers, but are less pop-oriented than either, though The Killers' Mark Stoermer is in the production seat on this album.
And with this graduation they've come up with an album that's a little more mellow, a little more 70s-inspired, a little more folk rock than 2009's Radio Wars, and celebrates their guy/girl vocal harmonies.
Their gothic tinge, and burning melodies centre the psychedelic guitar-based soundscape, and vocalist Juanita Stein (who's also on rhythm guitar, with brother Joel on lead guitar) is a charismatic force.
Opening track Charlatan has a swaggering, bluesy character, while Secrets has a deeply grooving bass line. Live On is a pulsing, air-punch-type track.
Title track The Loudest Engine is a highlight - passionate yet ghostly, with dizzying rhythmic patterns and Gold Suns, White Guns embraces the more cinematic notions of their previous work, with Stein getting all Kate Bush.
There's a certain expansiveness to the tracks, perhaps influenced by their time spent recording in the desert, and occasional echoes of Fleetwood Mac and P.J. Harvey, which lend a maturity to the songs.
Verdict: Gothic Americana rock from the desert
- TimeOutBy Lydia Jenkin