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OHHMS - Rot review

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Album: Rot
Release date: March 2023

01. Tonight's Feature Presentation
02. Let’s Scare Jessica To Death
03. Eaten Alive
04. Blood Feast
05. Body Melt
06. A Dark Song
07. The Mephisto Waltz
08. Sisters
09. Swamp Thing

“Each track [on Rot] takes its inspiration from the horror movies that have impacted the band’s psyche since the release of their previous album, Close” - if you’ve ever had a Halloween movie all-nighter and felt that all the plots would make for good metal lyrics, turns out OHHMS feel the same way.

This isn’t the first OHHMS album that has been reviewed on Metal Storm; I covered Close by them back in 2020. At the time, I noted that Close represented a major shift from the predominantly long songs on their previous records to shorter, more compact tracks. Not only does Rot go even further in this direction, but it also represents something of a stylistic revision. I’m not immune to being disappointed in bands for moving away from the sound that first attracted me to them, but that’s not an issue I have with OHHMS, not with Close nor with Rot. Truth be told, despite being a band I like enough to have bought multiple records from, I’m never entirely sure what it is specifically that I find appealing about OHHMS; they just have a general distinct vibe that is subtly charming, and that remains the case with Rot, even with their shifting approach.

How exactly is Rot different to past OHHMS efforts? Well, in my review of Close, I mentioned that their earlier albums lay somewhere between sludge, prog, doom and post-metal stylistically; on Rot, I’d say most of those styles don’t particularly factor in anymore. There is still a sludginess to them, but more than anything I’ve found myself thinking it most consistently feels like it belongs in ‘alternative metal’. However, it’s not really a kindred spirit to bands from the likes of nu metal or groove metal that get tossed into the alt-metal category; it feels more connected to alternative rock from the 90s and noughties but made more metallic.

The most obvious example of this for me is “The Mephisto Waltz”; between the riffs and vocal stylings, this sounds so much to me like a metallized 2000s Foo Fighters track. I’ve never really drawn mental comparisons between Paul Waller and Dave Grohl before, but between the tone, phrasing and melodies, I’m finding them to sound peculiarly similar on this track specifically. Another song that has real turn-of-the-millennium alt rock vibes is “A Dark Song”, whose first half contains boppy vocal harmonies and driving guitars that genuinely don’t feel far off pop punk such as Sum 41 or Blink-182. Veering away from super-mainstream sounds, there’s still post-rock to be found in the second half of “A Dark Song” and atmospherically-inclined segments of “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death”, as well as some heavy yet accessible vocal parts in “Sisters” standing out.

It's not that these aspects dominate Rot, nor that they detract from it in any way; while I wouldn’t want a full album of songs like “The Mephisto Waltz” and “A Dark Song”, I find these one-off instances to be appealing. It’s merely that the similarities to such unexpected bands really stands out. Beyond those tracks, OHHMS are still definitely a heavy band that can throw some properly chunky riffs into the equation, and even though the song lengths are ever-decreasing (only 2 go over 5 minutes), the band’s unorthodox song structuring does mean that they can cover a surprising amount of different passages within a compact track. The likes of “Eaten Alive” and “Blood Feast” jump between dirty, heavy grooves, more jagged and unorthodoxly rhythmic riffs, chanting choruses and more sedate passages.

One thing I noted about Close was its consistency, which was an issue I had with some of their earlier releases, and I would say that Rot is a pretty consistently enjoyable record too. While there’s not really any specific song here I love enough to feel compelled to spin, they’re all pretty enjoyable, which is a good accomplishment given the variety of approaches OHHMS use here. If there’s one song here that I’m not overly fond of, it’s “Body Melt”; a second, higher-pitched vocal (which I think is guitarist Stuart Day) is more prominent on Rot than on the records since he joined in 2018, but while I enjoy the back-and-forth of alternating lines in the verses of “Sisters”, I find the call-and-response in sections of “Body Melt” to be a bit distracting and off-putting, even if there’s some nifty riffs to enjoy in this song. One other track that merits a shoutout is the closer “Swamp Thing”; both the longest and the heaviest song on the album, it’s the one where the band’s proggy past feels most present, as it traverses ominous tremolo passages, dense riffs, quirky guitar solos, nifty mellower jams, and finally a sinister horror film-esque ambient ending.

Like most OHHMS albums, Rot isn’t a record that I feel an intensely strong connection with, nor will it be competing for a slot in my end-of-year list, but it’s a fun, varied, solid album that has some unexpected and intriguing features to it. The detours into alternative rock generally all land, while the band’s capacity for heaviness still remains very much intact, so it’s been a successful musical evolution for one of Britain’s more unassumingly unique acts.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 8
Production: 7

Written on 29.03.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not

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