He Whose Ox is Gored – Rumors (Bleeding Light Records, 28 October 2014)
He Whose Ox is Gored – The Camel, the Lion, the Child (Bleeding Light Records, 09 October 2015)
Hey, guess what: there’s a great band on tour that’s scheduled to play in Pittsburgh tonight (Wednesday, 7 September 2016) — Seattle’s psychedelic doom quartet He Whose Ox is Gored! This is happening at The Smiling Moose, 1306 East Carson Street, South Side. Doors open at 5:30 and the show starts at 6 — also performing will be Retox, Silent, and Netherlands.
Have you heard about this? Perhaps not, because I haven’t been able to find a Facebook event or any other sort of mention of the show, ouside of a mention on the calendar section of the venue’s website, and this being included in lists of tour dates shared by the bands themselves.
It’ll really be a shame if folks miss out on this just because they didn’t know it was taking place, so this seems like a great time to share the following review of a couple HWOIG releases — specifically their debut EP from 2014, and first full-length album from 2015. These are both pretty incredible and I’ve been meaning to write about them for the past year or two anyhow, so here goes! If you like what you hear, please be sure to spread the word, especially if you live in Pittsburgh or near any of the band’s other remaining dates! (Those will be listed down in the comments section.)
Although three-quarters of the band (the two founding members, guitarist Brian McClelland and keyboardist Lisa Mungo, plus bassist Mike Sparks, but not drummer John O’Connell) are credited with performing vocals, the three tracks on Rumors seem to exclusively feature Mungo. These vocals are layered in multiple parts, leading to some mezmerizing harmonies — in “Void Assault” which consists of proggy guitar riffs with complex and quick turnarounds set against atmospheric and ethereal synth background stuff, we find near-emotionless, almost akin to 80s pop-goth, harmonies; as the EP progresses the singing seems to become more powerful, as in the heavy and fuzzy “Buried Twice” they seem almost shouted at times (though still featuring harmonized backing parts), and finally in the harsh-yet-darkwave-ish title track there’s even more powerful shout-singing and even more pretty harmonies. Filled to the brim with psychedelia and strange vibes, this 7″ release certainly would make any listener take notice and it generates plenty of excitement for anyone hearing this band for the first time.
A year later, He Whose Ox is Gored came roaring back with the eight-track The Camel, the Lion, the Child, expanding on everything they had previously hinted at on the first EP, in addition to letting the rest of the band join in the vocal party. “Oathbreaker” kicks things off with lush and dense soundscape; there’s some more complex and proggy lead guitar, and after a minute or so, driving bass/drum parts interweave with the guitar, pressing forward and onward; and once again we have some etheral synth sounds providing mood and atmosphere. But about a minute from the end, there’s a single vocal phrase — the only one to be found in this opening track — which is far more of a harsh hardcore-style yelling than anything on the previous record. Set against what may be referred to as a post-progcore backdrop, the following song “Omega” has more post-hardcore-type yelling vocals right from the start.
Once these first two tracks have introduced these new sounds, the remainder of the album proceeds to blend these with some parts that sound more in tune with Rumors, in interesting ways. “Crusade,” after starting off with a heavy marching beat, morphs into more atmospheric post-prog sort of stuff; here some harmonized vocals in the style of the previous EP return, but with more varied parts, and this time blended with the yelling that has been more prevalent on this record so far. Pianos and dreamy, faraway moods; shimmery post-rock sounds; heavier prog-metal, distortion and screamed vocals — the band incorporates all of these at different points. The second-to-last song “Cairo” even shifts abruptly into a heavy sludge mode partway through, while closer “Weighted by Guilt, Crushed into a Diamond” begins quieter, and more moody (featuring strings, echoey guitar, and the occasional semi-whispered vocals) but then kicks into a heavier “wall of sound” sort of spacey psychedelic post-hardcore.
That’s an awful lot of stuff happening, it’s true, but giving each of these records a spin reveals that the band has a pretty firm grasp on what it’s doing — all of the transitions are tight and seamless, the blended styles seem perfectly at home with each other. If you have the chance to catch the band tonight in Pittsburgh (or at any of their remaining shows, see the comments section for more details) it would be highly recommended to do so! Be sure to buy lots of stuff from them while you’re there. If they don’t happen to be coming to your area, though, you can always grab a copy of the Rumors EP here and the The Camel, the Lion, the Child LP here!
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