Album Review: OHHMS - Close
Reviewed by Robbie Maguire
To say a new album release by OHHMS is met with excitement and intrigue would be a massive understatement. However in simple terms that is the case with ‘Close’. Steadily over the past few years the Kent based Progressive post metal band have been building their reputation. This reputation is one born from incendiary live shows and a quality ever evolving back catalogue of music. So nearly two years on from the excellent ‘Exist’ the autobiographically themed new album ‘Close’ will undoubtedly see the band continue in picking up new listeners. Listeners who over the course of the albums thirty mins will be marvel at the punishing sludgyness, the intimate delicacy that can be achieved through ‘heavy’ music or be carried away by the staggeringly beautiful uplifting moments of which there are many.
The gentile warmth of the intro to opener ‘Alive’ gives way to characteristic sludgy riffs. The steamrolling mid-section is a brute of psychy doom whilst the addictive groove of the anthemic final third sees the album announce its arrival in a manner whilst not too dissimilar from what we’ve come to expect from OHHMS. However, there feels something different though. The fact that it’s a five minute song as opposed to a twenty two minute album opener is not the only difference. Pulling no punches early on, there does seem to be an immediacy and instant catchiness that pulls you in whilst remaining vibrant and accessibly heavy. On the flipside, the experimental side of OHHMS multi layered armoury is evidenced on the dreamlike ambience of ‘Flaming Youth’ with its ethereal charm and the distinct unnerving brooding menace of ‘Strangeways’. Both short soundscapes yet with so much depth, character and feeling they ensure that you are taken on an ever meandering and compelling journey as ‘Close’ steadily reveals its unfolding character and unexpected beauty.
For all its deep and difficult subject matter contained within the album ‘Close’ makes for a surprisingly easy listen. The numerous hooks scattering ‘Destroyer’ with its rolling power sees OHHMS at their simplest yet sharpest and cleverest best. Thundering along, slowing gaining momentum, you can’t help be drawn into its punishing groove. The cymbal crashes, the crushingly rhythmic drums pushing the song forcibly onwards. Clean vocals and anguished backing cries adding a real depth to the song. It is a centre piece to the album where the repetitive exclamation of ‘There is no God, There’s only Gods’ works itself into your head. When the final harrowing scream, a genius compelling moment that the track has been building to is executed perfectly, it is a delightfully dark climax. The pounding punky ferocity of ‘Asylum’ sees OHHMS pen a song so short in length yet so full of character and uplifting doomy drive that it will surely become a live favourite. With that environment being so important to the OHHMS experience it is pleasing to hear the production certainly compliments the sheer sonic power that OHHMS have in the live setting. Whilst there is a distinct fuzz enveloping the album, all the individual parts are clear and the energy emanating from the record really allows the sludgy, expansive wall of sound to be as huge and visceral as they come across in that live environment, without losing any of the delicate intricacies on the album.
The astute amongst you may have noticed the song titles all bear an amazing similarity to Kiss albums. That’s no coincidence. Frontman Paul Waller found comfort in his Kiss albums growing up and escaping difficult situations at home. There is something magical about being able to escape by way of listening to your favourite albums and there are indeed many moments on ‘Close’ with an uplifting feel, possibly moments of escapism, be them intentional or not. Fleeting in part whilst others are drawn out and lingering in their tranquillity. The staggeringly alluring intro to ‘Unplugged’ is so infectious its heavenly. Deliciously hypnotic in fact. You can’t help surrender to its gloriously floaty looping guitar. A moment of sheer musical brilliance, plain and simple. Whilst only 6 minutes in length ‘Unplugged’ feels every much the epic album closer as it does a natural conclusion to the ‘Close’ journey. A mid paced assertion of doom infused rock. The bass dances purposefully under swathes of lush heavy chords whilst the ranging vocals maintain their convincing grip on your attention. Then a short serene contemplative soundscape ends the song and album in a classy and engaging manner.
It would be amiss to not give credit to the stunning artwork that adorns this album. Created by Ruth Stanley otherwise known as Monomoth, the photograph of a dragonfly carcass, with all its veins and such intricate detail on show somehow looks full of life and very much alive. The artwork clearly it seems important to the central feel of the album then but also integral to the journey that ‘Close’ is the final part of. Three diamond shaped lines cut through the Dragonfly with each of these representing a part of that trilogy. OHHMS’ first two E.P.s are parts one and two with one being about the food we consume, the second about humanity and then with ‘Close’ being about humanity concluding the trilogy.
Whilst OHHMS might not be a gateway band for many with ‘Close’, that could all change. Whilst this is an immediately accessible punchy doom rock record it is also so much more. It covers many styles and OHHMS excel in all of them. With ‘Close’ OHHMS will now find themselves operating very much at the top of alternative heavy music scene in the UK. A bustling scene of which they are one the brightly sparkling leading lights. Not only are they blazing a trail but they are proving that downright sludgy, doom laden music doesn’t necessarily need to be all about the seismic intensity and sheer sonic power. It, as evidenced so perfectly on ‘Close’ can also harness great beauty, emotion and a depth of character not normally reserved for such heavy music.
'Close' is released on June 26th via Holy Roar Records.