(In this 47th edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn reflects on the discography of Ov Hollowness, and we have Bandcamp streams of all the albums, as well as Andy’s suggested songs from each one.)
Recommended for fans of: Abigail Williams, Nachtmystium, Sólstafir
After the one-two punch of brutality of the last two editions it’s about time for something a little more… nuanced.
Ov Hollowness is the name of an atmospheric/progressive/post Black Metal project masterminded by Mark Rafferty of Edmonton, Alberta (that’s in Canada, for you less geographical types). Since the project’s genesis in 2009 it has produced 3 albums of driving, blackened riffs, thundering rock beats, and cold, haunting ambience.
Though primarily a guitar-driven affair, the vocals are also of prime importance and add their own vital character to the mix, blending bloody, blackened rasps and passages of portentous spoken word with moments of piercing clean-sung melody and clarity. Even the drums, electronically-programmed though they might be, are written and incorporated into each overall song in a way that seems both fluid and natural.
Over time the sound of the project has undergone a slow, organic evolution, moving from a raw, yet fluid early aesthetic, to a grandly melodic, deeply atmospheric, powerfully passionate vision that takes the building blocks of Black Metal and uses them as a foundation upon which to construct something altogether more ambitious.
DIMINISHED – 2010
The first Ov Hollowness album is over 40 minutes of chilling despair and biting melody, beginning with the reverb-drenched downpour of “Diminished to the Cold”, intertwining glacial riffage with moments of cold, contemplative harmony in 9 minutes of slow-burning fire and emotive melodic beauty.
“Silence” is more immediate, a little more aggressive, the drums a little more forceful, yet without sacrificing that icy core of melody that lies at the heart of everything the band does. Indeed, the more up-tempo nature of the guitars provides a stark and welcome contrast to the suffocating melancholy of the track as a whole, switching effortlessly from brittle blackened riffs to soaring, crystalline lead work in the blink of an eye.
The unexpected clean vocals in “Enshrouded in Obscurity” lend the track a wounded glory, particularly when juxtaposed against Rafferty’s usual croaking, cadaverous snarl. Patient and grandiose, the track unfolds slowly, backed by some subtle keyboard accompaniments which lend the whole thing an eerie ambience and atmosphere. Fans of recent Abigail Williams will most certainly appreciate its final minutes, as it switches up into a mix of blackened ferocity and bleak doomy melody that is pure magic to the ears.
“Crestfallen” is heavy in a way that goes beyond simple sonic heft, its desolate melodies and staggering pace straining and struggling beneath the breaking weight of sorrow and guilt. Slow and doom-laden, it has a bleak beauty all the same, draining and haunting in equal measure.
“Rest in Chaos” is the most immediate and direct track on the album, a clean, melodic opening swiftly transforming into something more visceral and aggressive, with some pulse-racing black ‘n’ roll riffage sneaking in under the cover of the band’s ever-present depressive darkness to loot and pillage to its (black) heart’s content.
The album concludes with “Cursed to Die Again and Forever”, which builds from a minimalist intro of melancholy piano to a raging torrent of blackened ire and fury, with some very Vreid-esque riffage underpinning Rafferty’s cathartic screams. As it grinds and grimaces towards its conclusion it slows to a tortured crawl, bleeding sorrow and faded grandeur from every note, before finally diminishing into the endless empty grey.
DRAWN TO DESCEND – 2011
A serious progression from the debut, the second Ov Hollowness album streamlines and sharpens the song structures whilst simultaneously expanding its scope and vision.
Whispering winds introduce “Old and Colder” before a steady, pulsing snare beat and a dark, drifting riff weave their way out of the gloom, intertwined with moments of sombre harmony and frigid, splintered aggression. The sound of the song – indeed the sound of the whole album – is something akin to Nachtmystium, albeit if they dabbled less in narcotic misanthropy and more in nuanced melody, layered with bleak, bare-bones riffs and weeping guitar leads.
“Drawn to Descend” is a torrential downpour of scattergun snare beats and searing blackened chords, through which Rafferty’s scalding vocals deliver a flood of palpable intensity and venom. Coiled, menacing hooks insinuate themselves into the listener’s brain with every winding tremolo part and brooding melody line, belying the grim, windswept atmosphere conjured by the track’s sweeping darkness and despair.
Waves of crashing chords and a stream of marching percussion characterise the early bars of “Desolate”, before being interrupted by an interlude of resonant, ambient emptiness. From this central void emerges a complex tapestry of sound, where charred, blackened riffs are overlain with chiming, reverberant melodies and tense, tormented vocals, while moments of fluid acoustic guitar or echoing atmospherics interrupt the visceral metallic flow at key points, offering a new angle on the song’s barren, ruinous composition.
The florid, folk-tinged guitars of “Winds Forlorn” straddle a line between primordial romanticism and mournful metallurgy, heavy with promise and portent, powerful yet restrained, bristling with vibrant hooks and virtuoso harmonies, while the visceral, versatile vocals move smoothly through a variety of styles, blackened rasps shifting seamlessly into ominous passages of spoken-word or despair-filled clean vocal counterpoints.
“Drone” is 8 minutes of haunting doom and gloom set to a soundtrack of woeful guitars and marching drum beats, black as pitch and chokingly dense. The wrenching, cathartic vocals screech and snarl with wounded abandon as the song’s funereal pace drag the listener deeper into misery and despair, before the album concludes with the uncharacteristic, yet effortlessly infectious black ‘n’ roll swagger of “The Darkness”. Its strutting, primal riffs and sharp-toothed antagonism end the album in a fully unpredictable fashion.
THE WORLD ENDS – 2013
The band’s third album explores a greater variety of lengths, tempos, and structures over the course of its 72-minute run-time, stretching the boundaries of the CD format to the breaking point with a sound that is simultaneously more introspective, more elaborate, and ultimately more powerful, than before.
The overwhelming melancholy of “Abstraction” is tempered by moments of raw fury and anguish, grandiose doom riffs and pummelling blackened aggression vying for dominance in a swirling dance of shape and form. Subtle clean vocals add an edge of despairing harmony to the wretched catharsis of scalding shrieks and snarls that dominate the track, breathing yet more life and character into the song’s deft mix of gleaming metallic hooks and soaring, moody melodies.
“Grey” is simultaneously bleaker and more venomous, the drums hammering away with relentless force over a cavalcade of strafing tremolo guitars and writhing, blackened riffs, culminating in a darkly melodic climactic solo. It’s followed by the icy menace and blistering hooks of “Hoarfrost”, which builds from gleaming, frozen splendour to frostbitten aggression, stomping and slicing with callous, merciless precision.
“An End” is a short, sharp convulsion of pounding percussion, starving riffs and raving vocals, broken up by subtle melodic moments and interjections of sombre spoken-word. This leads into the more diverse and desolate “Ov”, whose flurry of blackened chords is matched by a knack for grand, majestic moments of soaring harmony, weeping lead guitar notes weaving their captivating spell with alluring melodic grace in a manner not too dissimilar to previous Synn Report alumni Agrypnie.
The ageless, Primordial style of the album’s 10-minute title track cannot be ignored, Rafferty pulling off his best Nemtheanga impression with impressive aplomb. Yet the song is more than a simple tribute, driven by some incredibly catchy, shadowy riffage rippling with powerful hooks and an irrepressible sense of dark melody.
The juddering, stomping, doomy vibe of “Lost Resolve” melds pitch-black antagonism with aching desperation, caustic snarls, and grief-stricken clean vocals weaving an atmosphere of pain and desolation, all tied together by a series of storm-driven, distorted riffs and heart-rending lead guitar lines.
Razor-sharp and ravenous, “Hollow” is 8 minutes of rippling drums and savage shrieks, scorching guitars and shadowy ambience, driven to madness and destruction by the burden of its loss. This leads into the archaic majesty of “End in View”, one final composition of progressive blackened power and spell-binding melody, balancing hope and despair with intricate, enigmatic care.
Hmm, for some reason the first two tracks are out of order on their bandcamp stream for “Drawn to Descend”. How odd.
I believe, based on the artist’s explanation, that the Bandcamp stream is slightly different from the album as originally released. I should have noted that in the post when I included the Bandcamp stream.
Hmmm, how strange. It works really well on cd having “Old and Colder” as the opener.
You had me at “Recommended for fans of: Abigail Williams, Nachtmystium, Sólstafir.”
Well I hope you like it and find my comparisons suitably appropriate/accurate.
I really like everything I’ve heard so far (I started with the newest and have been working backwards). I’d add early Woods of Ypres (and closely related, The Northern Ontario Black Metal Preservation Society EP) along with the comparisons. It’s like there’s something in the Canadian water that makes Canadian atmospheric BM bands sound this great.
Glad you liked it!
I concur. I kept reading anyway, but really at that point I could have gotten a head start at throwing money and praise their way. Great find Andy.
Thank you very much man. I’m glad I found them too.