Album Review: OHHMS - Rot
Reviewed by Robbie Maguire
In Early summer of 2020 Ohhms gifted ‘Close’ to the world at a time when everyone needed to grab onto any piece of positivity and brightness they could. That album was a defining creative statement from the band and with news of a follow up and singles revealed the question many fans and critics were asking would be how the Kent quintet who fuse doom, stoner rock and post metal would follow that stunning benchmark in alternative heavy music.
With each song taking its name from a horror movie that has impacted on the band in the last two years, ‘Rot’ could be loosely described as a concept album of sorts. The brooding intro sets a gripping theme and we are asked the question “Can you stomach the eight horror drenched songs within” suggesting we are about to be taken on some deathly horrible journey. The grungy, hypnotic riff to ‘Lets Scare Jessica to Death’ is classic Ohhms and the swirling mid paced groove sets the bar high from the start. Immediately noticeable is the drumming of Max Newton. On ‘Eaten Alive’ we are treated to his joyous fills and his thundering rolling presence is so sweetly in control. However, and most important is his character and feel that he injects into the playing. This is a trait sadly lacking in heavy, alternative music. So often character is compromised for power. Rarely can they be fused so well as demonstrated throughout ‘Rot’ by Max.
‘A Dark Song’ twists turns and races along with a bright poppy, hypnotic fervour. A glorious lead like riff adds to the accessibility of this song with its instantly hooky charm. The late great Peter Steele once said that a bass line should be a bridge between melody and rhythm. Chainy Rabbit more than delivers these key components never overstepping or over emphasising his compelling bass parts. A clear unity is present with Max on drums, their work together in their side project TRAPS has allowed them to harness a strong musical relationship of which bolsters and elevates the rhythm section of Ohhms.
Simple, sharp, and undeniably catchy ‘The Mephisto Waltz’ crashes along with a fiery energy. It’s that tenacity that is so apparent on ‘Rot’ whether it be tumbling relentless parts, incisive riffing, or quieter passages, the vibrancy is always so apparent.
Momentum accelerates and with ‘Sisters’ Ohhms have a grinding yet beautifully soothing song. With a mainstream rock feel in parts, its accessibility is instant. Its outro is monstrous, a brutal sprint of crushing doom. Paul Waller is immense, with his vocals commanding as they are smooth. He effortlessly switches to the twisted and back to the relaxed carrying an unexpected but welcome sophistication all the while. With a togetherness and cohesion many bands would envy, the calibre of the musicianship is never lost on these ears. Despite the intensity and heft of the songs each of the band should be applauded on the delivery of their craft. Theres a familiarity and freshness present in equal measure and the ease at which Ohhms switch from the brutally unhinged to the lighter, brighter moments is a part of their fabric which they’ve honed to perfection. Irrespective of the dark subject matter there are still plentiful diversions from the crushing rolling bluster and ferocity. Dark ambient passages inject an unsettling dynamic whilst soundbites add to the horror flavour giving a hint of nostalgia. The psych, bluesy jam outro of ‘Swamp Thing’ with its sublime understated lead work is another example of Ohhms ability to step away from the pulverising, sonically intense for just a moment to lur you into the dreamy, alluring side of their music.
So back to the question that was posed earlier as to if Ohhms can follow ‘Close’. Well the answer is an emphatic Yes! To these ears they’ve produced an album that equals ‘Close’ but is also proudly different. With a welcome and pleasing ability to create the hard hitting, instantly punchy alt doomy rock but injecting tender moments of introspection and ambience could this be the most direct and intensely charged release yet from Ohhms? It certainly possesses a gritty dark character and more than provides a suitable soundtrack for the horror inspired themes within. Couple this with the magnetic vibrancy and the viscerally abrasive physical feel of a Ohhms live show that is captured in the eight songs it all combines to make a punishingly hellish yet wonderfully engaging listen.