Isolation. Misanthropy. Self-hatred. No, this isn’t a recap of Noisey’s famed One Man Metal, but one of the most criminally slept-on young artists to emerge from the cloud rap scene. OmenXIII, whose name, age, and origin prove even more evasive than the identity of Scott Conner himself, has become an ordained priest of the underground despite reaching pivotal progress. With countless releases under his belt and mainstay status on sad rap channel Astari, Omen continuously earns hundreds of thousands of views and streams despite outright label avoidance. Omen also shies away from leading his core of followers to the same clout Kool-Aid, opting instead to rap from the shadows of fields and forests, confronting the hardest journey of them all—understanding ourselves in relation to a world of strangers.
While Omen keeps the inaner facts about himself on the low, he has offered tokens of what matters most. Rapping instinctively since he could talk, he admired the musical stylistics of 2000’s hip-hop, but encountered a dissonance when it came to thematic components. Opulence wasn’t something that he knew or desired. While fusion projects have been the subject of scrutiny among purists within the metal camp, they continue to develop, getting at the core of what resonates most. Like many in his cohort, Omen grew up attracted to the likes of Linkin Park, but also delved into the pure and unadulterated—Suicide Silence, Carnifex, Whitechapel, and so on. While rap-metal in 2018 looks more like Ghostmane and Bones than Limp Bizkit, Omen carves out his own path, choosing to pay homage by sampling crows and operatics rather than clips of iconic hard rock hits.
Despite tackling difficult subject matter, Omen makes for cool listening, tapping into the emo-turned-atmospheric element that’s easier felt than described. The audible angst makes for a hospitable environment for self-contemplation. While lonerdom has, to a degree, been sanitized out by the “you will never be one of us” narrative of modern alternative scenes, Omen wears isolation as a crown. But never one to tread into shallow waters, he also offers glimpses into persecution that’s felt as an outsider.
Further flipping flexing on its head, Omen runs industry glory into a nihilistic tailspin by offering up matter-of-fact lines like “I’ve been spending all this money ’cus I might not see the sun again.” Yet, the nihilism of OmenXIII is hardly absolute, admittedly rejecting the rigid atheism of his past on the grounds that it stifles the mind as much as strict Christianity. Perhaps through his exploration of paganist theologies, appreciation for the duality of life’s ups and downs peaks through in the darkest of tracks. Musically, Omen also likes to keep us guessing. Occasionally he’ll deliver an offering that retains his signature low-toned, head-down style while running steadily away from stagnation. Love ballad “I Know It’s Complicated” proves to be a sad boy siren song a la colleague Corbin. “There’s Always So Much Going On” explores the heavy acoustic guitars, momentarily-escalating clean singing, and playground nostalgia of Astari associate, nothing.nowhere. But, at the end of it all, there is only one XIII.
Perhaps it’s the volatility written into the number XIII itself. Like partying on a Friday the 13th, you don’t know whether you’re going to end up dead and bloody in the shower, or if you’ll live to see the sunrise over the lake. So, Omen says accept it, hunker down, and follow anything that makes your heart beat in the process. Without a doubt, finding beauty and meaning in the story of unease is resonating with a core of kids that’s only expanding. As the personal and professional aspects of the American dream stray further from the common narrative, darkness will continue to bleed into vast genres of music. That’s not to say that undertones of luckiness haven’t always been there in some capacity, but perhaps they’ll manifest in the more overt fashion that we’re used to seeing in metal.