[22nd August 2012]
2. Dear God
3. Cannot Go
4. Loser Friendly
7. Fight Myself
8. Nothing’s Right
We live in a sea of bands attempting to jump on the “next big thing” bandwagon, it can be refreshing to occasionally dip into something that completely eschews this trend. These people concentrate on the music that has inspired them for the past decade as opposed to the past few minutes. Being from the younger generation of metalheads, the previous decade was the era of nu-metal, where bands like Korn, Deftones, SlipKnot, Linkin Park and Drowning Pool ruled the airwaves. One band in the evolving Israeli metal scene is aiming to revel once more in the down-tuned rhythms and angsty, yet self-reflective, lyrics of the aforementioned bands. Their name is Onoma,* and their début album is titled All Things Change.
After a brief intro track reminiscent of the band’s live shows (“Lauds”), where freeform noise is incorporated into their songs, the band are quick to get down to the rhythmic business of “Dear God”. Fans of oldschool Korn will quickly find elements to love: the down-tuned riffs are heavy and catchy, and the martial drumming matches them effortlessly. The instrumental trio form a cohesive unit around vocalist Elad Koren, who weaves a pattern of spoken word, irate screaming and grungy cleans. Dynamics are on the agenda, as the chorus roars past the rapped verses. Guitar manipulation replaces a solo section, as the “noughties” were wont to do, and the song’s coda is littered with proto-breakdowns. “Dear God” concludes, and the inner teenager is dancing in their bedroom.
The rest of All Things Change doesn’t stretch too far from this formula; the staccato riffing of Asaf Keidan intermixes with over-driven bass from Andrei Aframov, while Saggi Chen‘s drumming remains the most technically impressive throughout the album’s half-hour run-time. The band flirt with some melodic passages to great effect, such as in “Loser Friendly”, “Bug” and “Nothing’s Right” (the latter on acoustic guitars even). However, mid-tempo groove is the order of the day, and so Onoma forsake melody for the most part, reminiscent of a stripped down Meshuggah, swaying from one crushing groove to the next. To their credit, each song has its own identity, and given the brevity of the release, the band avoid outstaying their welcome, with the exception of “Loser Friendly”, which unfortunately drags a little.
As is inevitable with a band relying on a groove-based style, the singer is very often thrusted into the central spotlight. Fortunately Koren performs his role with aplomb, with images of a younger Serj Tankian, Eddie Vedder and Jonathan Davis all springing to mind. Even if the rapping/spoken word is not personally to my taste, his cleans are on-point and engaging, while his screams are nostalgic and well-suited. The lyrics are fairly one-dimensional in their portrayal of the unavoidable themes of self-questioning and paranoia (“Bug”, “Fight Myself”), in the same way that they riddled the texts of the original nu-metal wave. That said, they are far from weak, just a little monotonous on occasion: “We’re poisoning our brains with knowledge, we know it all but we cannot feel…wouldn’t it be great if we won’t think?”. “Loser Friendly” and “Bug” remain the most developed in this aspect, being the two tracks whose choruses avoid near-monosyllabic screaming (“Cannot Go”, “Animal”), bringing to mind the music of Static-X.
If All Things Change had come out 10 years ago, it is clear that Onoma would have been snapped up in the wave of bands that were thriving on this groovy trade. As it is, the album stands by itself as a testament to the longevity of the influence that Deftones, Korn and Pearl Jam had, and still do. Many reviews lumped this band in with the “djent” crowd due to the Meshuggah-esque aspects, but that is simply inaccurate as a label. A lot of the new djent scene fail to recognize a lot of the similarities between nu-metal and djent, causing them to inappropriately classify new examples of the former as the latter. Nu-metal is where Onoma feel most comfortable, and metalheads who enjoyed that particular phenomenon are encouraged to check this out and consider it a throwback. It will certainly be interesting to see how the band evolves in the future.
*The non-Greek speakers among you may miss the unintentional pun, as “onoma” means “name” in Greek.