Ommadon – V (Domestic Genocide Records, 05 August 2014)
Ommadon – Empathy for the Wicked (Golden Mantra, 15 July 2015)
Ommadon – Ommadon (Medusa Crush Recordings/Dry Cough Records/Burning World Records, 08 April 2016)
Ommadon – End Times (Dry Cough Records/At War with False Noise/DGRecords/Medusa Crush Recordings, 01 May 2018)
Today is going to be Ommadon day. All day long. And that’s really not an exaggeration: you’re going to need all day to plow through the massive heap of noise this Glaswegian duo (featuring David Tobin, guitars, and Ewan Mackenzie, drums/keyboards) has forged together over the past four years!
Fans of the two-minute pop ditty should probably just quit reading right here. But if you’ve ever listened to Ufomammut or Kongh and thought to yourself, “Wow this is great but I really wish all of the songs were way longer and way slower,” well… this just may be your lucky day!
Recorded completely live on the Hill of Maud in the highlands of northern Scotland and mastered by famed engineer Billy Anderson, V is — surprise! — this troupe’s fifth album. But the Brobdingnagian double LP (just two tracks, but each one filling up both sides of a vinyl platter) was the first exposure to Ommadon for us here at Valley of Steel. And there was certainly an affinity there instantly, as uncharacteristic as it may be to describe ANYTHING involving this band in such immediate terms.
Both of these tracks (ambiguously titled “V1” and “V2”) are filled with lots of static and background noise, which you’ll discover are very common elements in all of this material. The first track (an incredible forty-seven minutes) combines slow, heavy drums with a bass-heavy distorted “analog synth filter” sound, with pitches that sporadically modulate way up and back down. A similar of drumming (with endless variations) continues throughout, along with the addition of super fuzzed-out distorted guitar notes. Not sure if technically it could be called riffs, more like slowly repeated patterns of notes, although isn’t that technically what a riff is? Remaining very staticky and fuzzy throughout and decreasing in tempo halfway through, a few times the track keeps returning to that pitch modulation thing, with the semi-musical elements locked in a perpetual struggle against the underlying noise. Ultimately the noise wins.
On the reminaing two sides, another thirty-nine minutes of grimy static and noise, though here we find much more of a sullen, dismal vibe. At first there is a fuzzy guitar riff that keeps repeating it’s but almost completely buried under all the noise; after a while a more heavily distorted guitar comes into the foreground and the drums join in. Still, though, there is plenty of noise and synth stuff happening, including something almost pastoral lurking somewhere underneath. Over time it builds to a feeling and level of intensity similar to the first track, while always seeming a bit dismal in the undercurrent. And in the end, again the noise wins.
Empathy for the Wicked marks the twosome’s first output recorded on an industrial estate in urban Northumberland, in stark contrast to the environment in which their previous creations were concocted. Feeling like an extension of this new setting, opening track “I” (about twenty-three minutes long) kicks off with an array of awful noises, droning synth notes, and feedback. When the drums and guitar enter, again the music is more about the long, drawn-out notes than riffs in the traditional sense. At some point picks up the pace a bit, to a nice and sludgy crawl, before returning to the original inertial state. And eventually, the noise wins.
Second track “II” (twenty-two minutes) features somewhat quieter noise, like a windswept plain (at least at first), and more subtle feedback. Just like the second half of the previous album, this second side comes across a bit more subdued and forlorn. Almost pure drone music, with very little discernible motion or activity (although it’s buried in there if you strain your ears) until well past the halfway point by which time the drums have finally joined in. From this point forward the band is still mimicking the same overall “riff” that has already been happening throughout, just slightly intensified now. And now the score is four points for the noise to zero for anything melodic or musical.
Our third album (and the group’s seventh) “is self-titled because this is what we set out to be from the beginning. This is not entertainment. This is not easy listening. Ommadon is pure and primitive heaviness. Ommadon is the outcast, the fallen angel, the darkness. Ommadon is the darkness which we are told to fear, to avert our eyes and cower from, to candy coat the suffering, the decay, and the death which give life meaning. Ommadon is the intolerable agony, the paralysing misery, and the stifling alienation, which make us who we are.
“Ommadon does not submit to the simplification of the horror and the beauty of existence into a world of positivity and negativity where we feel nothing but simulations of what happiness could be like or terror that sadness may disrupt our mass stupor. Ommadon embraces the dark, not as a manufactured rebellion or infantile inversion of stories of good and evil to which we must submit ourselves. Ommadon allows us to reinvent ourselves by destroying what we believe we hold dear but which only slows our steps. Ommadon is for those who know that in fearing death, one fears life, sleepwalking through life, waiting to die.
“Ommadon is for those who know that only in facing and loving death can you live freely. Ommadon is the world and the world is Ommadon.”
Consisting of only one track this time (titled — you guessed it — “Ommadon”), the forty-three-plus minutes (split into the two sides of a record) once more center around harsh synth notes, hugely distorted bass drones, static, and noise. Boiled down to its essence, the track is a four-note riff (or, four up plus four down, with the occasional grace notes and flourishes) stretched over tens of minutes. Although it picks up in intensity for a while, nearer the end of side “A” the guys really dig their heels in with long stretches of feedback punctuating between each pummelling note. And from there, throughout the remainder of side “B” the glaciation only becomes more and more and more extreme…
Finally, we reach this week’s brand-new End Times. This one is also considered a single piece, forty-three minutes of sound split into two sections on sides “A” and “B” — although the two parts are also basically self-contained works that virtually mirror each other. Oh yeah, and spoiler alert: there is lots of static and noise. Deep, distorted bassy sustained notes pair with a higher, mournful synth drone in the background; about five minutes into each side, an uncharacteristically traditional-sounding guitar solo part jumps on board, followed by the signature Ommadon guitar+drum punching-you-in-the-face-in-unison sludge-drone riffs.
But even more uncharacteristic than that, about fifteen minutes into each side, we find the unexpected appearance of vocals. Side “A” employs a guttural roar every bit as deep and primitive-sounding as the rest of the band’s music, fitting in perfectly. On side “B” the vocals are more of a blackened yowl at first, although the same type of deep roar returns over the final couple of minutes, closing out the record in a rather similar manner to the conclusion of the first half.
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As the band itself stated, “this is not easy listening” — but for those with the endurance and stamina to stick it out through this many hours of powerful noise and gut-punching droning riffs, it can be quite a rewarding experience to join in with what Ommadon has described as their “quest to annihilate the self through primitive heaviness.”
All of these are available to download for whatever price you wish to pay, through the Bandcamp players above.
While it appears physical copies of V are sold out, Empathy for the Wicked and the self-titled album are available directly from the band (here).
New album End Times can currently be found via Dry Cough (here) or Medusa Crush (here).
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