REVIEWED: Ohhms - 'Close'
You'd think after an album had been out for over four weeks, in the midst of lockdown with not much else to do and plenty of time to just absorb a record, we'd have some sort of grip on what makes it tick and how it stirs the soul. Yet despite the luxuries of having this record at the tail end of June and an understanding Editor In Chief, we're still no nearer unravelling the mysteries of 'Close'. The Kent collective have long carved their own niche as a distinctive taste of sludge. They started with an expansive take on bone-crunching bravado as their basic template but adding things like melody and invention. Nasty and acerbic and dense at times, soaring and uplifting and gleefully chaotic at others, but never anything else than compelling and absorbing. And long. Song lengths in excess of 20 minutes was not an uncommon occurrence on their extended players, but it never felt like they were cramming in ideas for the sake of it. Like a long stroll in the country side, or midday drinking extending to a mammoth session on into the evening, they were exactly how long as they needed to be. True, at times they may have sounded like Acrimony mixed with someone playing Rush bass runs slightly faster than normal, but it's a mightier formula than that glib description. Over the course of some extended players (apt!), they've slowly been refining the formula, in a fond update of the 70s drug psychedelic chic, albeit with a social conscience, themed about the preservation of the natural, with what more astute listeners would recognise as the doom end of the post-metal scale – long cyclical riffs, but enlivened with rhythmic reinventions, as well as myriad other little influences and inflections.
This year however has seen a few changes to broad Ohhms template: 'Close' sees them evolve organically from epic riff monsters to concise riff monsters, with a total running time of just 30 minutes. This is not a step down from the hypnotic and claustrophobic 'Exist', but more like 'Close' is opening a new chapter in Ohhm's oeuvre. After exploring the horrors of vivisection, the opening strains of 'Alive!' might come as a release like observing a beautiful Pelican in flight. See it swoop! See it soar! See it majestically divebomb through your speakers and transform into a pounding riff that would would have ISIS sweating. You need to get used to that, listening to 'Close'; the effortless shift in gears and permutations rather than a formulaic repetition ad nauseam and the daring to go out on a limb makes this record so addictive and intriguing. There's a driving rhythm that pushes the hypnotic phrasing trope to the limits before yanking the listener back into a stoner rock groove bliss. 'Destroyer' has a fucking massive hook with bellowed vocals of “I WILL DESTORY YOU!” and “THERE IS NO GODS! THERE'S ONLY GODS!” building the pressure, twinning with follow-on track 'Asylum' and their take on the mad swing and “THEY'RE COMING TO TAKE ME AWAY!”. 'Unplugged' ends things all too soon, shuffle-footed and shifting riffs like a desert's dunes creeping imperceptibly. It's over too soon, too soon for it to all sink in. So you'll go back, and hit reset and live it all again. Then you'll notice new nuances, perspectives shifting as you pick out new elements that contribute to the whole. The cymbal-led punctuation, acting as hooks for great big hunks of meaty riffs to hang on; the hellish squall of guitars alongside the manic bass runs; yet again the damn catchiness of a genre that for all its loudness can be introspective and inward looking.
Ohhms have always been that special sort of band: effortlessly long and listenable, they also effortlessly slip out of genre boxes as well. Is it doom? Is it sludge? Is it post-metal? Post-sludge? You could sling hyphenations around until your brain bleeds, but you'll still never be close to the truth of what Ohhms do. Far better to listen, learn and absorb.
'Close' is out now via Holy Roar