Genre hybrids within the general ambit of extreme metal tend to be hit-or-miss affairs, and perhaps more miss than hit the further the hybridized ingredients differ from each other. Yet when the creative splicing of divergent ingredients and tonalities truly succeeds, the experience can stand out in ways that don’t often happen in the general run of genre monochromes, and reward the constant search of metal adventurists for something different. In my humble opinion, the self-titled premiere EP by Oktas, which is being released today, is one of those stand-out successes.
By way of background, an okta is a unit of measurement used to describe the amount of cloud cover at any given location. That term became the basis for the name chosen by this group of Philadelphia musicians, led by visual and musical artist Bob Stokes (Drones for Queens), who performs vocals and bass, and including friends of his from previous bands — drummer Rob Macauley and fellow bassist Carl Whitlock of Dirt Worshipper, and minimalist composer Jason Baron from Cloud Minder, who plays the cello with Oktas. (We did mention unusual tonalities, and here we have two bassists and a cellist, but no guitar.)
As forecast, this new EP embraces a range of influences, from ambient minimalism to atmospheric black metal and epic doom metal (and I hear a bit of gloomy post-punk in the mix, too), woven together with a cinematic edge. Lyrically “based in the filth ridden streets of south Philadelphia”, as Bob Stokes has told us, the words transport us “to a world destroyed by mankind’s own hubris, plagued with endless war, constant natural disasters and humanity desperate for redemption”. Continue reading »