Wednesday, 14 February 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Oryx - "Stolen Absolution"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 23/02/2018
Label: Midnite Collective |
Graven Earth Records

The escalating tension, heartfelt enthusiasm, and ripping tone coalesce to elevate Oryx’s sophomore record to an early contender for best sludge album of 2018. 

“Stolen Absolution” CS//CD//DD track listing

1. Intro
2. Blackened Earth
3. Born for Death
4. Abject
5. Interlude
6. Price of a Dollar
7. The World in Ruin
8. Stolen Absolution

The Review:
The two-piece metal group is a risky venture: for every stellar example that incorporates multiple registers, tones, and intimate dynamics (Bell Witch, NEST, Obsidian Tongue) there are a dozen that do not sound like anything except an inept demo tape (which I politely won’t call out here).  Thankfully Oryx, the Colorado by way of Santa Fe two-piece, fall solidly into the former group: a balanced collaboration that sounds like a symphony of savagery.  While “Stolen Absolution” is a sophomore release, this marks their first album as a two-piece – a sort of second debut, more distinct, assured, and unique than their prior effort,
The downtuned guitar takes center stage on this album, augmented by a layer of fuzz that’s thick but not impenetrable.  At the heart of the maelstrom there are riffs aplenty, gliding between gnarly sludge rhythm guitar and ethereal, high end leads.  Guitarist & vocalist Tommy infuses a lot of his playing with folksy twang, crafting a distinctly American take on blackened sludge.  But when he pulls back from the shimmering dulcimer-reminiscent elegies, the sour sludge pouring from the speakers is skin peeling filth.  Drummer Abbey serves as a propulsive force throughout the record – her feel for steady rhythm eschews flash without sounding simplistic.  The blast beats are fierce without falling into the weird idiosyncrasies of timing that befall lesser drummers, while the tribal might on tracks like “Abject” is as menacing as the drumbeat of an orc army.  In fact, the only thin moment on the record, the guitar-only Interlude, feels distinctly OK (rather than uniformly “excellent”) because of the absence of interesting drumwork.
Thankfully, the rest of the album more than compensates for this otherwise very fine bridge track.  “Blackened Earth” and “Born for Death” are sludgy little gems, and sound far more complex than many dual-guitar bands could hope for.  There’s a really effective contrast between low end murk and higher tones that Tommy manages to pull off on the record – I’m interested in seeing whether it plays as effectively in a live setting.  “Abject” is without a doubt the best track on the first half of the record – with the vocals altering between death growls and fried screams.  The agonizing intensity is remarkable.
The master suite of the record has to be the one-two punch of “The World in Ruin”, and the title track, “Stolen Absolution”.  On “The World in Ruin”, Tommy establishes a cinematic, poisonous spaghetti western track rife with menace and beauty in equal measure.  When Abbey’s drums slam in at the opening of “Stolen Absolution”, it’s a moment of genuine catharsis countered by immediate dread.  The prior themes on “The World…” sour and evolve, while Tommy’s unhinged vocal performance is flawless.  The escalating tension, heartfelt enthusiasm, and ripping tone coalesce to elevate Oryx’s sophomore record to an early contender for best sludge album of 2018.  “Stolen Absolution” would be an achievement for any band, and is even more impressive since it’s balanced on the shoulders of two savage metal masters.

“Stolen Absolution” is available here (CD) and here (Tape)

Band info: facebook || bandcamp