Omotai, Terrestrial Grief
Whoa. Alright, so I may have been listening to Omotai’s brand-new album, Terrestrial Grief, just a little bit too loud. Final track “Yuri” just marauded and destroyed its way to the end, and now I’m just sitting here feeling stunned, kind of in shock and trying to process it all somehow.
Which makes sense, honestly, because Grief is a monster of an album, eleven slabs of solid, head-cracking fury that all practically bleed menace out of the speakers/headphones. Even at a more reasonable volume, it’ll make your skull ring like a bell, but cranked up as high as I foolishly had it…oof. What can I say? It seemed like it needed to be played loud, so I did.
Now, while the album’s definitely heavy, I should note that this is a bit of a shift sideways for the band, as Grief sees the trio — guitarist/vocalist Sam Waters, bassist/vocalist Melissa Lonchambon, and drummer Anthony Vallejo — expanding their sound somewhat. This time around they’ve toned down the more doom-metal-y elements, leaving all the comparisons to Isis and the like in the dust.
What’s left is hardly easy-listening, but it is a deeper, smarter, sharper-edged kind of heavy rock, drawing in chunks of math-rock and progcore and NYC noise-rock to make something that’s closer to Unsane at a lot of points than it is to, say, Pelican. The guitars weave and stab and spiral, circling like sharks around a central core of rhythm that jumps fluidly from stutter-stop prog to speeding thrash to slower, sludgier metal.
The band lays out the blueprint right in the first track, “Vela Hotel,” which is still as heavy and raw and thundering as Omotai’s debut, 2010′s Peace Through Fear EP, but less interested in crushing you physically. Then there’s “Spanish Constellation,” which starts off gorgeous and serene, with a fragile, Eastern-sounding guitar melody, but then sees the band charge into galloping, fist-pumping metal akin to Mastodon or Kylesa.
Along the way, the band drifts through these heavy, hypnotic, almost indie-prog melodies, like those made by Chavez, Coheed and Cambria (there’s a serious resemblance to Kylesa in the mesmerizingly circular nature of a lot of the riffs on here, too), or maybe more recent outfit MonstrO — with whom Omotai really needs to play, now that I’m thinking about it… Waters’ howling-in-the-distance vocals work awesomely well with the spiraling, needle-like guitar lines, and the whole thing leaves me with my mouth hanging wide open.
After that, there’s “Spidercave,” which is all Steel Pole Bathtub-esque guitar lines full of creepy menace and enough feedback and noise to make diehard Sonic Youth fans smile. “Seabitch” is appropriately turbulent and tidal; Waters’ guitar holds on tight at first, but eventually gets swept overboard by a raging torrent of distorted, half-shattered noise. “Orison” is another utterly hypnotic track, in spite of Vallejo’s hardcore drumming, while “Life In The Hive” is wonderfully dark and murky, and “Hollow Innards” is awesomely neck-snapping and frantic.
As if to make a specific point that this is a band that’s evolving right before your very eyes (er, ears), smack-dab in the middle of Terrestrial Grief, Omotai drop into the title track, a sweet, lush, hazy bed of swooning atmospheric sound over delicately-picked, watery-sounding guitar. It’s a nice halfway point for the album, letting you pick yourself back up off the ground for a second…before Omotai pummels you back down, that is.
And yeah, that’s exactly what they do on the following track, “Lurching Away,” which is heavier than a lot of the rest, closer to Peace Through Fear by several miles. It’s a thundering, crushing, shuddering, staggering colossus, and it’s awesome to behold. Damn.
Now, if I can just pick myself up off the ground, here…
(Feature photo by Denniz Polk.)