Omotai, Peace Through Fear
Honestly, it’s apparent right from the first stagger-stomp second of opening track “What the Misanthrope Said” which way Omotai’s Peace Through Fear is going to go: heavy, thundering, hammer-like slabs of sound crushing you to the floor while the gods look on, laughing, from high, high above. And beyond that, the cover art and the band’s own freaking name step in and erase any lingering doubt — does it get more heavy-badass than a Japanese word that sounds like it could be Klingon and means “heavy,” “massive,” or “severe”? Is that even possible? (The answer’s “no,” by the way.)
Relative newcomers Omotai drink deeply at the well of Isis and Neurosis, pounding away at bass-heavy guitars while howling arcane, murky lyrics into the distant wind, although drummer Anthony Vallejo’s background playing hardcore serves the band well, allowing them to mix up the tempos somewhat — the band alternates between the instro-metal stomp and these crazily propulsive, skittering, hardcore-fast drum sections, and that alone keeps them well clear of any risk of getting boring. I’m really liking the way guitarist Sam Waters and bassist Melissa Lonchambon trade off on the vocals, too, with Lonchambon’s whispery, ethereal voice floating in and out while Waters howls and bellows from the bottom of the pit.
“Rotting Hill,” midway through the five-song EP, downshifts things a bit and gives it all an intriguing post-hardcore sheen that I’d swear sounds like it crept in out of the Dischord section of somebody’s record collection. It’s a nicely thoughtful track, seemingly throwing a nod to old-school horror flicks with the title and general aura of uncertain fear. There’s also a fair resemblance to Pelican going on throughout the whole of Peace Through Fear, although I feel a little odd making any comparisons to the more sky-aimed band, especially since I’m fairly certain Vallejo could grab all of the band members and handily pin them to the naked earth with his drumsticks.
The one resemblance I can’t get away from, though, is the resemblance Omotai bears to Lonchambon’s “other” band, the better-known Sharks and Sailors. Omotai are definitely much more on the metal side of things, to be sure, and I know the band’s got to hate the comparison, but their sound makes me think fondly back on the earlier days of S&S, back when they were heavier and less prog-dreampop-y. And trust me, I mean that with love — I do like Sharks and Sailors these days, but their occasional forays backwards into their head-crushing past make me strangely happy, as does hearing something that’s at least a cousin to that sound on Peace Through Fear.
This EP may be merely a taste of what the band’s got in store, but it’s an impressive one, like a door into some other world where massive giants stomp their way across the terrain and destroy everything in their path. And Sharks and Sailors can’t hold a candle to Omotai in terms of pure foreboding menace; in the space of five short songs, the latter are amazingly able to conjure up a shadowy, murky, somehow dark and threatening realm where the only thing you can really do is run away and hide from whatever the hell it is that’s hunting you out in the dark.