Published on 10th August 2020
OHHMS – Close
Recently, ArcTanGent Festival posted on their Facebook page asking their followers what they thought the top five post-rock releases of 2020 were so far. There were a lot of familiar and expected names, but one I was surprised to see was OHHMS. They’ve never been a band I’ve thought of as post-rock. Doom, yes. Sludge. Stoner. Psych. Any of those. But they never struck me as post-rock. OHHMS is a band that bludgeons the eardrums like a mad mix of Mastodon and Motörhead on mescalin. I first became aware of the band with their 2017 release, The Fool, which attracted me initially with its artwork. OHHMS is back this year with another album, yet again with fantastic cover art. Now, of course, you should not judge a book by its cover – nor an album – but rest assured, the music within Close is suitably impressive.
The album begins with Alive!, which like the opening track of The Fool, lulls any unwary listener into a false sense of security, as an almost delicate introduction belies the ferocity to come. It is, I guess, passages such as this which allow the band to be described as post-rock, but they really are the exception. After a minute and a half of sedate introduction, the heaviness and oppression kicks in, and just to ensure there is no doubt, Paul Waller’s tortured vocals erupt out of nowhere. I absolutely love the rhythm section in this track. Chainy Rabbit (bass) and Max Newton (drums) are on fire! Chainy’s bass is as tight as his abs. Alive! is a deep and dirty dirge, and I love it.
I also love the way it falls into the following ethereal interlude (one of two on the album) so naturally. ((Flaming Youth)) is a breathtakingly beautiful composition from OHHMS – something I would never have expected to say. It’s gentle, it’s quiet, it’s melodic. And it works wonderfully as a coda to Alive!. Almost like a nostalgic look back at the vigour and victories of youth through rose coloured glasses, after Alive!’s boasts. That the band can switch from pulverising to peacefully so seamlessly is pretty impressive, and I love the dreamy atmospheric soundscape provided here.
Of course, this can’t last, and Revenge is back to the barrage of doomy and sludgy sounds OHHMS fans know so well. Although at nine minutes, Revenge is the longest track on Close, it’s relatively short considering OHHMS have included 20 minute compositions on their albums in the past. However, nine minutes still presents ample opportunity for some real expansiveness and groove. If Black Sabbath were a stoner band, they might have sounded like this. There are passages where the music evokes the imagery of the deserts famed for helping the stoner scene take off. There are some nifty changes in tempo…
…And then, before you know it, you’re back within another interlude. This gives the impression that perhaps the two interludes are meant to bookend Revenge, but as aforementioned, I really do find ((Flaming Youth)) fits more with Alive!, and when you look at the way the album is presented on vinyl, it becomes apparent that this second interlude is more of an extended introduction to Destroyer, in the same way the first was an extended coda to Alive!. ((Strange Ways)) is far more minimalist and ambient than the first interlude. It reminds me a little of Pink Floyd, too, though I can’t work out why. I love the way the drums come in, almost haphazardly, towards the end. The full on drum-led introduction to Destroyer comes on like an eargasm. Destroyer is a short but sweet song, perfect for release as a single, so it comes as no surprise that it is. All thick and meaty riffs, and thundering drums, with a singalong (as much as OHHMS ever singalong) chorus that will stick in your head long after the song has ended.
Asylum is one of the highest temp tracks on the album, with a relentless marching beat, and another catchy chorus. It’s quite punky, and like any good punk song, doesn’t outstay its welcome. In fact, it’s shorter in length than either of the two interludes (though immeasurably more intense). This leaves only the final track, Unplugged – and, wow, what a way to close out an album! A lot of the album has a reflective nature, and Unplugged definitely comes across as an exercise in reflection. It’s a tossup for me, whether this or Destroyer is my favourite song from Close.
This is easily, in my opinion, OHHMS most accessible album, and could well be the one which finally gives them the renown and acclaim they deserve. I can’t see it becoming my favourite of their albums, but it’s early days yet. I’m far more familiar with their earlier albums, and that familiarity is a bit of a barrier, but there is a lot of really good material on Close. Come back to me in a year, and I’ll let you know….
01. Alive! (5:16)
02. ((Flaming Youth)) (2:27)
03. Revenge (9:10)
04. ((Strange Ways)) (2:00)
05. Destroyer (3:12)
06. Asylum (1:50)
07. Unplugged (6:13)
Total Time – 30:08
Paul Waller – Vocals
Chainy Rabbit – Bass
Max Newton – Drums
Marc Prentice – Guitar
Stuart Day – Guitar
Record Label: Holy Roar Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 26th June 2020