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Orn: "Teeth/Knowing"; Izah: "Finite Horizon/Crevice"

img  Tobias

There really is no such thing as a Doom Metal hype. Increased awareness in so-called Avantgarde circles and glossy magazines may have gently pushed the genre beyond its original audience. But almost by definition, Doom is bound to remain the treasure of a tortured minority: Its monolithically aggressive and crassly contemplative sound laughs in the face of music's typical ambient functionalities and its lyrical cosmos revolves around a gaping black hole morbidly sucking in doubts, depressions and destructive thoughts. It is the soundtrack to oblivion and the apocalypse on a personal level and an artistic result of the eternal quest of the open-minded individual to survive in a society which favours adaptation. To put it differently: If indeed Doom were on the rise, the world were headed for disaster.

The unexpected interest of mainstream-oriented media has, however, had the interesting side-effect of the genre returning to its roots in a sort of defiant backwards-loop. Paradoxically, therefore, the chances for an uncompromising band like Orn of reaching wider and understanding audiences are possibly higher than ever. Coughed up by the fertile Toronto-underground, the formation has found a way of staying true to the epic dimensions of Doom while doing away with the smooth and symphonic tendencies which are alienating the style's core public with trendy newcomers. A healthy dose of Hardcore influences is grounding the band's sound, which is centered around the unholy alliance of Justin Smith's stoic Drums and the subterranean twin-Guitar ruminations of Adam Cooper and Dan Ross. The absence of a Bass adds a rawness and rabid intensity to the action and places even greater weight on the inner spasms of the riffs, which are now not only filled with the natural convulsions of distortion effects but with the additional intriguing frictions caused by the slight irregularities between Cooper's and Smith's contributions. The opposition to Keyboard instruments, which have come to define many comparable productions over the past decade, meanwhile, is a statement of intent and a political issue for the trio.

Sound isn't everything here, though. Orn are never content with blasting out a fuzzy subsonic powerchord and wallowing in its crushing waves for minutes on end. The band are just as much capable of surprisingly switching gears within a song, using Leitmotifs like a classical composer and constructing curious arrangements free from the usual cliches. On „Knowing“, they suddenly pull the plug halfway, entering an Ambient section consisting of a repeated sequence of one and the same shimmering harmony, which they only gradually transform into a brutal onslaught of overtone-rich noise and ferocious batting. It is an old and trivial wisdom that choosing your weapons and methods carefully is the best tactic to achieve the greatest impact, but Orn have certainly taken it to heart like few others. Digesting this EP will take some time, but those curious about where this approach will ultimately take the band will be grateful to learn that they have already finished work on their first full-length – whose grandiose set-up of three songs in just over an hour promises a further evolution of their concept.

Even though Izah will probably not consider themselves Doom in the strict sense of the word, their style shares a lot of elements with their Canadian counterparts: Coarse screams meet the blind fury of Hardcore, painfully slow passages are juxtaposed with up-tempo parts and tracks stretch to more than ten minutes as a rule rather than an exception. In a further step of processing, however, these obvious Metal-references are then complemented by introspective moments of sombre semi-acoustic Guitar-work and clean vocals, whose fragile nakedness makes for a highly effective contrast with the forceful walls of sound conjured up in the maddening outbursts. This potent cocktail of different elements turns Izah into a perfect example of a style perfected by several befriended bands on the Dutch scene, all marked by a both highly ambitious and yet emotionally straight-forward approach.

Izah may have even more on offer, however. Even though the group are sporting a powerfully rich production, songwriting credits are demonstratively reserved for the founding duo of entius (vocals and lyrics) and van oosterhout (who signs responsible for the music). This clear allocation of tasks has awarded a quality to their music which is notably absent from the sounds of many other bands: Coherency and vision. While some passages of „Crevisce“, with streams of deep drones floating stately underneath solitary motives, are pure sound art, opener „Finite Horizon“ moves forward in a single, fluent movement, culminating in a euphorically depressed finale of triumphantly spiralling harmonies. Instead of simply cutting and pasting together random jam sessions in pro-tools, the formation are building pieces marked by an undeniable logic and irresistible pull and it turns this debut two-track EP into a work with hypnotic and addictive qualities.

Even though their eclectic thrust reaches out into several adjacent territories, the outcome of their journey is still highly original and deserves to be appreciated outside of any limiting categories. Regardless of the fulminante drive of this EP, don't expect the band to appear in any Avantgarde publications or glossy magazines all too soon.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Orn
Homepage: Elevation Recordings
Homepage: Izah

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