Completely blind and ignorant to their influences, methods, sonic personality and overall ethos my introduction to Ommadon‘s sixth full-length ‘End Times’ was initially an experience of ominous build entirely devoid of release. The dark and churning waters of the cover art amidst the violent storm of the apocalypse could very well describe the actual sound of the two 20+ movements that make up ‘End Times’. The only reason this sort of record doesn’t quite sledgehammer my brain is because I am already a devotee of Japanese death/doom/drone kings Corrupted. Albums like ‘Paso Inferior’ and especially ‘El Mundo Frio’ are still relevant today and nigh impossible to improve upon. That particular influence is clear in much of Ommadon‘s output, particularly the last two recordings, but they do enough with the sound to differentiate themselves.
Formed almost immediately after Scottish avant-sludge/core band Snowblood disbanded drummer Ewan Mackenzie and guitarist David Tobin quickly released a slew of noisome DIY stoner doom influenced riff sessions before ‘III’ landed as their first complete vision. Though they’d recorded it themselves the extra polish from Billy Anderson‘s (Eyehategod, Sleep, High On Fire) mastering process gave it an incredible thudding sound across one 40+ minute track. This has more or less been their modus since, with compositions becoming increasingly long and muffled to the point of irritation up to and including ‘V’. None of their riffs were anything special to me until their 2015 album ‘Empathy for the Wicked’ where they picked up the pace and hammered out a couple of solid doomers in the early parts of the album while second half of the record slowly trailed off into silence. The defining moment for Ommadon‘s intended sound came with 2016’s self-titled record and though I understand the primitive and foreboding intent of the project, it was largely a rumbling bore that I didn’t have patience for.
After digging through their previous discography and reflecting upon this new release I appreciated this album as a high point. It has the best quality of recording, the best cover art, and most hairy-chested guitar tone so far in Ommadon‘s career. One of the more important notes for ‘End Times’ is that Ommadon have not featured a vocalist up to this point and “Side B” offers a surprisingly strong hissing sludge vocal near it’s conclusion that helps redeem some of the residual boredom of “Side A”, which is more or less one riff stretched across 20 minutes. When taken in as one continuous song I can appreciate the entirety of ‘End Times’ but to wait 30 minutes for any discernible variation requires drugs that I’m definitely not on. That said, about 4 minutes into “Side B” the seemingly random layered guitar soloing underneath does provide some appropriately chaotic texture for the experience and leads into some smart pace changes as the piece progresses.
As odd as it sounds I see the progression from 2010 until today for Ommadon as entirely positive movements and the inclusion of vocals and lead guitars helps make up for the long lost doom riffs of ‘Empathy for the Wicked’. With some greater fortitude for long-winded and atmospheric extreme doom metal releases ‘End Times’ reveals it’s experiential value slowly and surely. Regardless of how captivating a rumbling riff and a few growls can be I’m not sure there was enough substance to entertain my own personal tastes and expectations for this sub-genre in 2018, but it is a commendable step forward for the band’s minimalist oeuvre nonetheless. Recommended for fans of Corrupted, Aldebaran, and Whitehorse.
Blasphemous red wizardy. 3.0/5.0
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