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OMB - SwineSong CD (album) cover

SWINESONG

OMB

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.69 | 11 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Swinesong' - Omb (8/10)

I can only imagine Omb was born late one evening, when a drunken group of friends asked themselves how many styles of metal and prog they could work into an album and get away with. Had this been a typical group of friends, the idea may have started and stopped that night. However, with members from Reign of the Architect and Amaseffer involved, Omb has been anything but typical from its inception onward. One of the weirdest metal albums I've yet had the pleasure to hear this year, Swinesong is equal parts puzzling and amazing, a seemingly rhapsodic stream of playful ideas that draw in sounds from every corner of prog and metal. Not all of its musical experiments prove to be successful, but for the particularly adventurous listener, the handful of weaker moments are a small price to pay for what is otherwise one of the most memorable progressive metal albums in recent memory.

Omb does for avant-garde metal what Quentin Tarantino did for film: they have taken elements from some of their medium's greatest icons and made them their own. Although overall impressions place Omb in the similar avant-garde school as bands like Subterranean Masquerade and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum , Swinesong summons too many comparisons to comfortably squeeze into a review. In no particular order, Queensryche , uneXpect , Kayo Dot , Helloween , Voivod , Ayreon , Gentle Giant , Devil Doll , Opeth , Iron Maiden and Ennio Morricone are all but a few of the artists that came to mind listening to Swinesong. While the list may not give too specific a description of what Omb are really like musically, it should at least give an indicator how damned varied the album can be as a whole. Within the span of a single track, Omb can shift from folk to thrash and power metal, carnival music, and dissonant fusion. While even the most inept avant-metal band can go for this wildly varied approach, it takes a great band like Omb to do it this smoothly. The astounding variety may be evident while listening, but it doesn't feel forced at all. Stark shifts in style and tone are abundant throughout Swinesong, but at no cost to the musical momentum. Veteran listeners of avant-metal should recall a time when they thought a band had great ideas, but weren't able to tie them together properly. Against all odds, Omb have been able to circumvent this common fault, bringing everything under the sun together and making them work as one. It's a painfully rare feat in this genre to have good flow, and that accomplishment by itself is enough to get me excited about Omb.

Indeed, the flow on Swinesong shouldn't have turned out so well. Even the songs themselves eschew traditional (read: comfortable) structures in exchange for something rhapsodic and consistently adventurous. Even several listens into the album, Swinesong doesn't offer much in the way of a Rosetta stone to unlock the puzzle of the album's structure. Most of these songs unfold as would a theatrical performance, riding the music's emotional ebb and flow, rather than relying on recurring motifs or themes to give the material a sense of completeness. This apparent liberation from traditional form is perhaps the most 'outside the box' characteristic Omb have going for them. Approaching Omb's musical ideas individually, their adventurous experimentation isn't as obvious. The excellent track "A Smaller Dose of Tyranny" comes to mind, a chaotic labyrinth of a song that jumps between genres like a bipolar kangaroo. Somehow, the rhapsodic strain of death, power and thrash metal ideas fuse together into something wholly satisfying and constantly engaging. Throughout the album, this constant challenging of genre boundaries is tied together with a playfulness often sorely lacked by similarly experimental bands. The whimsical, schizophrenic personality of Canadian masters uneXpect comes first to mind, but Omb show more moderation in their display of wackiness.

Especially for a band in the throes of their debut album, Omb demonstrate an impressive level of musicianship and chemistry together, although the musicians' prior band histories doesn't make this fact a surprise. In particular, Omb's vocalist earns top honours for a vocal performance that's as diverse and varied as the styles they play. Davidavi Dolev is a man of one thousand voices, ranging from growls and powerful falsettos to an off-kilter sprechsegang. For the most part, Dolev is able to snuggle into these different deliveries like a musical chameleon; no matter where the music goes, his voice follows without falter. It's pretty incredible to hear such a talented vocalist go across the map like this; his power metal vocals in particular have an insane resonance that could go toe- to-toe with some of the genre's legends. Not all of his styles are so successful however; Dolev's glottal sprechsegang on "Oh Mrs. Wade! You Shouldn't Have!" was probably intended to be comedic or creepy, but it's downright irritating, and kills the otherwise excellent stream of consistency the album had going for it until that point.

For an album that tries so many things at once however, it's a marvel that Swinesong turned out as well as it did. Most of the musical experiments here are a ton of fun, and it's one of the rare cases where an outright rejection of song structure has actually helped the music become more engaging. In short, Omb have started off on an excellent foot, although their constant genre-hopping may have the unfortunate side-effect of limiting their audience. Swinesong is possibly the most exciting metal debut I've heard in a year. In a word, it is unique, and given the current metal standard of emulation over innovation, that trait alone should warrant checking it out.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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