Monday 3 April 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Ohhms - "The Fool"

By: Stephen Murray

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 31/03/2017
Label: Holy Roar Records

“The Fool” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Shuffle, Cut and Reveal
2). The Magician
3). The Hanged Man
4). The World
5). The Lovers
6). The Hierophant

The Review:

This is not doom. Even less is it sludge. The influence of those genres can be felt, but to understand Ohhms under those terms is misleading.

Three years on since Ohhms' first appearance outside the rehearsal room, it is still unclear who first applied these labels to the band, though there's no doubt that these are labels the group have done nothing to eschew. Speaking outside Camden's Black Heart in 2014 before their second ever gig, the deal with Holy Roar not yet in the bag, vocalist Paul had admitted as much. "To be quite honest I would be happy to be lumped in with the doom thing just because it's different and there [are] elements of doom in [our music]," he had said. And yet, out of the then 30 minute set they had, only eight minutes were described by Paul as doom. He'd timed it. So what are they? "Classic rock, if anything," he'd said then.

'The Fool' is the band's third release and the first that they consider to be a full-length, and the description 'classic rock' still sounds fairer than what is more usually thrown at them. There are definite hints of Pink Floyd’s more reflective moments, along with some guitar work that would not upset the 80s hard rock applecart. Though there is more going on here, and not just Dan working his way through his extensive pedal board of boutique guitar effects, or indeed anything particularly progladytic. Where Ohhms skirt the sludgey-doomy influence, it is filtered through post-something-or-other and is akin to grunge.

There they are in good company; though rather different, Germany’s Aleph Null also came in on a stoner tip but sound like the debt is actually made out in the name of grunge and psych rock, and that is no bad thing. To anyone who has been following Ohhms these last few years, this record will feel a very natural and subtle mutation. Paul still has his self-professed “singy and shouty, never screamy” vocals pushed through echo. Not psych rock meltiness, but a big room-feel. Chainy’s restless and nomadic bass still wanders widely in search of home. Max still offers a lyrical range of punctuation and backbone, though has stepped it up on the faster moments in “The Fool”. But despite the ready familiarity of the sound, the word that fell from my lips as the first listen came to a close was “surprising.”

One of the most striking things about this album is not the penultimate track, 'The Lovers,' (which, on first hearing, you would be forgiven for thinking a song penned by Phil Collins for a Disney soundtrack had somehow snuck its way in -- that may read as though it is intended to be a slur. It isn't.) Rather, it is most striking for its echoes of the band four fifths of Ohhms emerged from: The Babies Three.

Before taking on this review I had decided not to wake the dead; to allow Ohhms to be judged independently of that past. But not only do some of the guitar lines seem to recall that heritage, but the lyrics to the album’s closer, ‘The Hierophant,’ are lifted wholesale from File Under Retaliation’s ‘Rotten Apples’. As the lyric says: “Recurring themes throughout my life.”

The original mission statement may have been Swans circa “1984”, but it was never quite to be. Instead there’s something more organic. Ohhms shoot new blooms from deep roots, laying out their generational history as they evolve as musicians.

“The Fool” is available here

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