31st March 2017 – Holy Roar Records
01. Shuffle, Cut, and Reveal
02. The Magician
03. The Hanged Man
04. The World
05. The Lovers
06. The Heirophant
As our In Focus artist of the month, it’s only right we put some words together on the latest offering from OHHMS. After two phenomenal EPs – 2014′s Bloom, and then Cold not even a year later – the Canterbury five piece are back with their debut full length – and it’s as trippy as fans have come to expect. With themes of magick – particularly the tarot deck, and its major arcana – five-card spread The Fool is truly exciting.
It’s notable that OHHMS are one of only two bands to get signed to the incredible Holy Roar Records by submitting directly to them. If that isn’t a mark of quality, I don’t know what is, but their uncompromising style of psychedelic composition caught the label’s eye. Their faith has been thankfully been repaid; The Fool is yet another example of the quality of that first submission.
Opening track “Shuffle, Cut, and Reveal” is only just over a minute long, but it’s enough to pique your interest from the off. Acoustic guitars serve as an introduction, shuffling and stacking the deck before first proper song “The Magician” drops in, hammering the listener with snare beats and heavily distorted guitar lines, before phasing out into something more recognisable by fans of the genre. Vocalist Paul Waller immediately stands out; his Jaz Coleman-esque delivery might seem similar to what’s going on in the doom scene right now, but it’s crucially different; creating an immediacy rather than relying on the standard slow burn of doom. They’re placed are front and centre rather than a complement for some riffs – it’s just magnificently different.
Opening a stoner song with rainfall is a ballsy move. Black Sabbath perfected that over forty years ago, but as “The Hanged Man” sinks its shoegazy toes into the sand, it’s clear that the blatant hero worship is worthwhile. One of the most interesting tracks I’ve heard in a long time, it works its way through a multitude of stylistic changes over the course of its thirteen minutes; from bright yet melancholic beginnings, it moulds into a post-hardcore midsection before collapsing in on itself in one last heroic hurrah that pulls together everything beautifully; it’s a perfect set-finisher if ever there was one.
If the album was ever going to slow down its unrelenting barrage of riffs, it’d be on a track called “The Lovers“. True to its moniker, it’s an eight-minute love song, and it’s certainly a left turn; the shoegazy meanderings are paired with a phenomenal vocal performance from Waller and guest vocalist Sienna Holihan, which add yet another facet to an already well textured record. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking this track has fallen directly from a Nick Cave record.
Now, this wouldn’t be an OHHMS release without a track with a ridiculously long run time. The Fool‘s closer is that track; coming in at just under 22 mimnutes. “The Hierophant” is most certainly a slow burner. A drone-soaked introduction is broken by ritualistic chanting, and the track ebbs and flows from light to dark with languid ease. It never really lets up its assault on the senses, but one thing is certain: it’ll never give you chance to lose your concentration, as it flings riff after riff in the most honest and succinct way possible.
OHHMS have cemented their place as one of Britain’s finest doom bands with a debut full length of utmost quality. Its remarkable compositions are both undoubtably memorable and pleasingly straightforward, yet with more than enough nuance to remain attractive to those who favour depth over straight up riffing. Many bands claim to play progressive music – and OHHMS have never been one of them – so there is a certain irony that they have produced a record so dynamic. With bands like Black Sabbath now passing down their torches, the scramble to pick them up is on. OHHMS are well on course to lead the way!