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A Ruined Oak

6th September 2017 – Tofu Carnage Records

01. Welcome To The Adders’ Land
02. A Ruined Oak
03. Last Of The Green Vial
04. Arms That Flood
05. Blackjaw
06. Back To The Drifting Satellite
07. A Cruel Weight, Thy Wound
08. Fire Is A Whore
09. A Maiden Nerve
10. The Savage Sky
11. Augustina
12. Tusk Aurora

Feral punk vibes galore, Houston natives Omotai‘s sound sits on the Helms Alee/Red Fang spectrum of proggy doom and sludge. Aggressive but peppered with smoother moments, new record A Ruined Oak is a solid snapshot of everything that’s right with the movement.

Immediately percussive, A Ruined Oak gathers momentum early on and maintains it throughout; the record really comes alive when the drums are given space to breathe. Otherwise the guitars have a huge presence here, as seen in the frantic Converge-y riffs showcased on opener “Welcome to the Adder’s Land“. The single is a great indication of the weight and volume that makes up the best of the record; it’s also one of the more focused offerings here, featuring a great interplay between guitar leads and thunderous percussion. Elsewhere guitar flourishes litter the record, providing ecstatic moments between the sludge onslaught. The ferocity is the focus, and though it’s not as caustic as some of its hardcore bedfellows it always sounds warmer and riffier, though still confrontational.

There’s a lot on offer; beefy tones borrowed straight from the warmer side of doom and some post-metal inflections later on help shake things up, and lend the savage moments even more impact. The vocals are one of the more diverse aspects of the record, ranging from a Scott Kelly bellow to some sinister Julie Christmas-style moments in some of the more atmospheric sections. I hear a lot in common with some of the modern doom bands, namely the shouting-into-a-well style of Conan and Slomatics. It’s a healthy mix and a vocally diverse record.

Solid though this record is, there could be more to mark it as distinctive. The music is incredibly satisfying but often in the shadows of its influences. The execution is vigorous but it feels like it wants to drift towards progressive sludge; there’s not quite enough experimentation here to really nail that. In addition, the production could do with a little sharpening to get the most out of their big-tones vibe. A crisper mix would bring out more of their edge, and though the guitars sound full they don’t quite bite as much as they could.

These are general criticisms though; it’s hard to fault A Ruined Oak too much. So much of what works for Omotai is the percussive power and the punk fury which make this an instantly compelling record and absolutely a band to watch; these tracks were born for the stage. With the diversity on offer there’s no doubt that future releases will have more of their own identity on offer. For now, this record rips.

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