(DGR was inspired to pick three particular albums from his backlog to review together, which is what you will find below the anime image above.)
Look, sometimes you lay out your “to listen to and potentially review” archives in such a way that the moment strikes you. This is one of those times where the exercise is likely to appeal to just me, and me alone, so indulge me, will you? as I crawl backwards to catch up with even more stuff that has managed to hit throughout the first quarter of this year. Sometimes you do it because the idea you had for the article photo is, in the long run, more than enough.
OAK – DISINTEGRATE
Portugal’s Oak are likely to grab people’s attention with their sophomore release Disntegrate. Their first for Season Of Mist – after debut Lone was handled by Transcending Obscurity – Disintegrate is a near forty-five-minute traversal through the roiling collision of the worlds of death and doom.
Ever-dedicated to their world-building, the two-piece comprising Oak have spent much of the lead-in to the release of Disintegrate painting their music with the visages of lumbering giants, collapsing mountains, and enough Misery to make a 1987 Barnes & Noble jealous. While the lyrical inspirations may be purposefully vague and presented as one large archival screed, the music is recognizably suffocating and slow, at times fitted more as “mood” than artistic piece. When the two lead videos for the album have the group drenched in either snow or fire – with little room for subtlety in between – then you certainly know that there is “something” present here that is going to grab people.
Aesthetic firmly in hand and music just as equally polished, Disintegrate is the sort of release that can make even the anti-single doom song guy on the website perk an eyebrow and give it a listen. Did we mention that Disnitegrate was released as a single song? Because there’s the headline-grabber for people. Disintegrate is meant to be approached as one single forty-four minute and thirty-eight second song.
Now, of course Disintegrate is not the first uber-long song to be posted about within these hallowed halls – yours truly seems to have a tolerance of one about every seven years, given that the previous one covered on this end would’ve been Necrosavant‘s Aniara MMXIV – but it also needs to be noted that it is quite an ask of the listener to settle down and spend time with the group for that amount of time with no ramp off of the musical highway.
Disintegrate is not a song of many varying movements either. Oak put a lot of time and effort into writing the song so that everything is woven together, with the demarcation points being the moments of silence and lone guitar instrumentation to break things up. Oak‘s musical portrayal of a lumbering collapse is effective on that front, with every drum hit sounding so labored that it feels like the group found themselves in a high-gravity situation wherein movement is near impossible. Each hit is purposeful and often lands like rolling thunder; the times where Oak pick things up a bit and get heavy are near exhuasting.
Disintegrate moves from one anguished roar to another, instrumentation serving as steps as you wander through the devastated wasteland Oak seek to portray. For doom fans, this an album that’ll have tremendous appeal in just how well it plays to that particular genre’s strengths, with the death metal crews on the outskirts getting just enough of a taste each time to keep themselves interested.
Given just how fervently dedicated Oak are in service of making Disintegrate one centralized art-piece, it’s hard to imagine them not accomplishing what they set out to do. The gall on display here to follow up your debut with a single-song album is nearly staggering, but it is also what makes this one so interesting. While the staying power may be a little harder to judge for the more blast-happy among us, it is certainly recognizable that Oak were hellbent to make an album like Disintegrate and threw everything they could at it, managing to pull off an incredibly difficult act with what seems to be relative ease.
OMEGA INFINITY – THE ANTICURRENT
An album like O(ak)mega Infinity‘s The Anticurrent is always going to be one that is hard as hell to pin down, even harder to explain, and will be abrasive as all hell to listeners the first time around.
The international two-piece black metal act have a formula that does its damndest to try and fill the space provided by its chosen cosmic subject matter. Much like someone with an overtrained nose and a cup of “artisan” coffee hovering in front of them, you could easily detect notes of their strong black metal genre denominator, dissonant death metal, industrial, light grooves – even one noisier than a truck full of pots and pans crashing into a concrete highway barrier segment wherein the music seems to completely melt down – and well, you can see where this path might be heading, and it certainly isn’t friendly.
Omega Infinity‘s sophomore release is a lot to take in for the first few trips into the void. The musical combo of Tentakel P and Xenoyr have a tightly contained bundle of chaos in The Anticurrent, fine-tuned so that every wall of sound is legible to the ear though the language spoken is alien and nigh-incomprehensible. The group’s first album documented the local solar system and The Anticurrent aims even grander. If nothing else, when you choose to create an album archiving the beginning and the end of the universe as we know it within fifty minutes, then it’s expected that you’re going cover as much ground as you can in that time, which Omega Infinity certainly do in the seven songs that make up The Anticurrent.
It’s funny to imagine an album’s aspirations as being so big that any guest contributions feel less like appearances on the release and more like reinforcements, but that is the sort of album The Anticurrent is. It is large, searingly abrasive at times, and ambitious as hell. Omega Infinity wrangle folks from Sear Bliss – even doing a cover song of theirs on the digipack edition – Seven Spires, Coldbound/Antiqva, and Todtgelichter – for an Emperor cover on the digipack because black metal bona fides must be maintained at all times – to make appearances throughout the album. But otherwise what you have is a whole lot of inhuman yelling and the universe crashing down around the band.
The Anticurrent is a release for which the sense of “wow, thats intense” becomes the standard, so any time there’s a break in the swirling cauldron of chaos, it’s your chance to breathe. The dynamics of it are certainly recognizable across the seven volleys present here, and when your shortest track is still scraping up against the five-minute mark, that previously mentioned ground coverage is a near-guarantee.
The Anticurrent plays to the sense of fasination that comes with an album that is expansive in just how overwhelming it seeks to be. It is cinematic in scope and does its damndest to be horrifying in its atmospheres, though just how often you’ll want to make the trip will likely come down to just how hard your interest is held by the initial cacophony that Omega Infinity launch at you. If “The Alpha” and “Creation” manage to get their barbed and howling hooks into you, then you’re likely well suited to continue falling further into the void to experience songs like “Death Rays” and “Voices From The End Of Time”.
OAK PANTHEON – THE ABSENCE
One listen to Oak Pantheon‘s opening moments on their new album The Absence gives the immediate sense that they are an entirely different group from the one that released In Pieces and From A Whisper prior to that. Given the near-seven-year gap between albums, that is understandable, but there was always a sense that among the atmospheric and echo-worshipping groups of the post-black metal scene that saw a humongous explosion in recent years, Oak Pantheon would always be near the forefront of it.
It is still tempting to recommend songs like the triptych of “Climb”, “Float”, and “Enormity” from In Pieces to people as some of the best that scene had to offer, which is what makes The Absence such an odd experience. With the time gap between albums and the addition of new band members to the mix, so too have a huge bevy of new influences emerged, resulting in a sound that wants to expand far and wide. You’d get the sense that with Oak Pantheon, nothing was left on the table when it came to The Absence, and as soon as there was an idea that could germinate into a song, the band would act upon it – thematic throughline be damned.
The result, is an experience that is in fact as far and wide as you would expect, but also one that does roll its ankle in some of the pitfalls that an approach like that presents. The Absence is eight expansive songs at nearly forty minutes but feels like eight separate experiences from sometimes eight different incarnations of the band.
The Absence is like Oak Pantheon reinventing themselves over and over again. There’s no eleven-plus-minute songs on this trip, and in fact there are a few where you could glance at song lengths and see them as being “standard”. Given its more compact nature in terms of song length, there is a sense of immediacy to a few of Oak Pantheon‘s songs this time that you wouldn’t have otherwise expected.
Opener “Becoming None” and “Listen” present an urgent and manic groove that you wouldn’t have expected from the band previously, with them taking on a percussive nature that seems to run opposite of the previous long and drifting passages that you’ve otherwise heard from the band. “Dissociate” and “Decisions” laying around the three-minute length is surprising at first, but the more surprising part is how prominent the group’s rhythm section make themselves in those two songs, even more so across The Absence as a whole.
Oak Pantheon reach far past their initital black metal influences and into realms that could see them painted as prog, death, even a melodeath group at times. Moments within The Absence could even see you imagining the band with western atmospherics as they adventure across their eight songs. While the sense of Oak Pantheon creating one long movement in album form is gone, the “eight different experiences” approach steps in to attempt to fill that spot. With that, you’ll likely find stuff that does and does not work for you – Oak Pantheon give themselves over to each different style 100%, so at the least you could say they didn’t compromise on which attack they’d be going with each time to try and maintain a thematic semblance – with some of the more surprising turns happening at the midpoint and last song of The Absence. The constant head-turning can make for a fun game on its own.