The cover image on OAR‘s debut album The Blood You Crave is an evocative yet mysterious one, seizing attention through the juxtaposition of a vibrant blaze-colored swath of light (which might be interpreted as a window into another world) and a downcast figure perched on the edge of a daunting precipice. No less than the cover art, the music quickly seizes attention too, and doesn’t let go. It too blazes, and reveals harrowing emotional chasms.
Through six tracks and nearly 45 minutes of music these Australians embrace the hostility and aggressiveness of black metal but they give equal attention to the creation of mood and atmosphere, bringing into play ingredients of post-metal, doom, hardcore, post-punk, and shoegaze (among others). The songs all prove to be dynamic experiences, as is the album as a whole, and that versatility makes it even easier to get caught up in what’s happening, and to hang on ’til the end.
The band discharge searing riffs that channel both fury and despair, as well as relentlessly cauterizing screams whose sounds of shattering torment send shivers down the spine. They undergird those fiery and feverish assaults with the work of a powerhouse rhythm section, using hurtling bass lines, rumbling double-kicks, and plenty of heavyweight low-end power, but also administering the measured, skull-smacking pop of the snare to counterbalance the surrounding turbulence.
When the band slow the head-long pace, which they do continually and purposefully, they pull the mood into disturbing valleys through dissonant and dismal melodies whose distorted tones crackle with emotionally calamitous effect, sometimes drawing upon tropes that skirt the edges of funeral doom. Yet in those slower movements the band also build an atmosphere of cold, encroaching menace as well as feelings of abandonment and desolation.
Though the speed and intensity of these intertwined movements varies significantly, what unifies them is an almost unrelenting darkness. When the fires in the music burn, there’s still a sense of desperation and perhaps futility in the fight. When the tempo abates, what usually unfolds is an experience in haunting melancholy and even harrowing hopelessness.
To be sure, OAR also create moments that are spellbinding, as in the acoustic-embroidery and the ringing tremolo’d riffing that open “Doomed and Damned”. Some of the songs (such as “Souls Lost in the Frost”) prove to be spellbinding even as they simultaneously prove to be distressing. The band also pick their moments to deploy massive, jolting grooves, compulsive rocking beats (which sometimes exhibit a post-punk flair), lithe bass arpeggios, and athletic drum fills. At times, even in the aforementioned “Doomed and Damned” but elsewhere as well, the riffing also gloriously swirls and soars (as well as abrading the mind like heavy-grit neural sandpaper).
Acoustic guitars appear elsewhere too, sometimes even lightening the mood (and the closing track is itself a beautiful and spirited acoustic-guitar instrumental). Occasionally, feelings of vibrant hopefulness also emerge (despite its name, “Perfect Agony” is one of those places). Yet if you want an experience in daunting, multifaceted emotional ruin, “What Once Used To Bloom” will give you that in spades.
All in all, The Blood You Crave is an ambitious and very impressive full-length debut, one that’s continuously captivating even though it has the capacity to shake you to your core. It’s the mark of band who have powerfully demonstrated they will be worth watching very closely in the years ahead. And thus it’s with great pleasure that we present a full stream of the record now:
The Blood You Crave will be released by Blighttown Records on January 7th. It was recorded and mixed by Ben Worsey at Everland Studios in Sydney. It’s available for pre-order now on vinyl LP and digital formats.