I first encountered OHHMS at Hard Rock Hell, Doom Vs Stoner, and became an instant convert. A band who stood out as genuine sonic adventurers, they recalled the majestic brilliance of Swans so intense and involved was their performance. A band who still think very much in terms of the album as opposed to the impact of individual songs, it was clear that the debut effort from OHHMS (following on from two impressive and lengthy EPs) was going to be something special and ‘the fool’ most certainly does not disappoint. Everything from its stunning packaging (complete with custom tarot cards) to the deft sequencing of the music is the product of great thought and the result is a compelling and powerful record that stuns the senses.
Opening with the short, sweet introduction ‘shuffle, cut and reveal’, it’s clear that OHHMS are operating in the conceptual realm as echoing guitar slithers over a gentle acoustic refrain. Echoes of mid-period Floyd abound only for ‘the magician’ to bury everything under a layer of super-hot sludge that crashes down upon the unsuspecting like lava upon ancient Pompeii. One is left feeling like Pliny the Younger, witnessing a monumental moment in history but unable to do more than observe and record, and as the track progresses, so it blots out the sun with its arcing riffs and doom-laden percussion. It’s an astonishing opening gambit and one that sets OHHMS at the very peak of the UK doom scene, peerless and unafraid. At thirteen minutes in length, ‘the hanged man’ provides OHHMS with the space they need to explore the myriad influences that lie at their heart. Static and noise obscure the introduction, crafting an atmosphere of subtle unease that builds to a monumental riff that walks the fine line between the shimmering post-rock soundscapes of latter-day Swans and the pulsating, corrosive sludge of Neurosis. Hypnotic and beautiful in an apocalyptic sense, ‘the hanged man’ is a masterpiece that will be the subject of endless dissections by music fans in the coming years. Whilst lengthy, the band utilise every minute, fully aware that if you’re to engage in the epic you have to keep the music endlessly shifting or risk the waning of the fans’ interest. As the track progresses, the listener is reminded of Pink Floyd’s epic live rendering of ‘Set the controls for the heart of the sun’, not so much musically, as spiritually only for the band to wrong-foot the listener as they plunge headlong into a swirling cauldron of Cro-Magnon metal riffs straight out of the Sabbath songbook lest the listener become too lost in an inner reverie.
Rather more straight forward than ‘the hanged man’, OHHMS demonstrate that they can kick out the jams on ‘The world’, a muscular number in the vein of Mastadon that will slay live whilst ‘The lovers’ is a rather more contemplative number that explores subtler sonic landscape. Reminiscent of Sonic Youth with its tightly woven guitar riff repeating under a beautifully rendered duet that stands as a testament to the bravery of the band willing to depart utterly from the brutality found elsewhere, building the piece to a sky-scraping conclusion only in the closing seconds of the track. It’s a gorgeous piece of music and it helps to provide the necessary respite prior to ‘the Hierophant’, the album’s epic, twenty-minute conclusion. A track that closes the album with a hitherto suspected but rarely-seen force, ‘the hierophant’ is a contemporary masterpiece that should be mandatory listening for anyone who considers themselves to be a fan of dark, heavy rock music (I’d say doom, but OHHMS neatly transcend genres with their wide-ranging approach to influences). Emerging from a scree of feedback, ‘the hierophant’ proceeds to overload the senses as echoing voices and lengthy drones are seemingly beamed in from another world altogether. It takes some seven minutes for the piece to finally emerge from its torpor, by which time the listener has been lost in the deadlights, free floating with only the band’s increasingly energetic riffs to tether them to reality. This is a masterclass in song writing and as close to perfect a representation of the band’s live set as is possible to get.
Passionate, original and deeply engaging, ‘the fool’ is a masterpiece. It is clear that the experience OHHMS gained out on the road and in the production of their EPs paid huge dividends, for this is an assured and deeply satisfying debut. 10