Ommadon – Empathy For The Wicked
Review + Full Stream
The wicked seem to get no sympathy, but Ommadon do dare to show some empathy towards them. Taking their name after a villain in the animated film The Flight of Dragons, the drone/doom band from Glasgow, Scotland, has been particularly active through the years. A couple of demos, three full-lengths and a three-way split with Horse Latitudes and Coltsblood is what the band has produced since its inception back in 2010. The focal point that seems unchanging for Ommadon is the sonic annihilation that they are able to conjure through the sheer weight of their music. But Empathy For The Wicked marks a slight turn for the band. Apart from being the first album they produced that has an actual title instead of a Roman numeral, it is also the first to be recorded in an industrial estate and not in the Highlands of Scotland. With the band still continuing to collaborate with Billy Anderson, who deals with the mastering of the album – something that only feels natural – they seem to be at their strongest point with Empathy For The Wicked.
The story about the composition of Empathy For The Wicked is quite interesting as well. While the band was recording their part for the three-way split with Horse Latitudes and Coltsblood, they recorded “Side A,” the first part from Empathy For The Wicked. However, what was not known was that they kept pushing the song, tampering with its structure and expanding it further and further. As a result, that push ended up becoming “Side B” of Empathy For The Wicked and the closing for this monolithic opus.
Label: Golden Mantra
The core of Ommadon is and remains their drone quality. The heavy, pummelling riffs reveal a lot of the doom heritage of the band in its slowest, sickest and most primal form. With the slow pace at the forefront “Side A,” the band travels on through different sceneries. The more desolate and destructive side of Ommadon is revealed halfway in the track, almost reaching a sludge quality, with the band raising the terrible (in a good way) background to new heights in order to enhance the suffocating feeling. The same asphyxiating quality is found on “Side B,” but from a more distant perspective – not that this makes it lose any of its unyielding presence. On the contrary, through destructive tones a more minimalistic side is brought forth, making it feel as if ashes and dust rise with each passing cymbal hit and chord being struck. It even goes as far to contain a strange, defeatist aspect of the band, with the music just barely hanging on until nothing is left. That specific approach is also used in the final moments of “Side B,” as Ommadon let everything fall apart, creating a haze as they lay the sonic trip die out.
Their patterns are what makes sure that the maze that their drone core constructs is inescapable. The movements are endless with their repetition, making you lose track of time, causing disorientation and hallucinations with their overwhelming approach. But, they can also appear with a more thundering approach, as happens soon enough in the first part of the album. When they really shine is when they are placed in the drone parts that keep applying pressure to your mind until it bends. The distant placement in “Side B” and the unfriendly environment create an infinite loop from which there is no escape. The repetition never surrenders, and a ritualistic aura arises, even though the album does not seem to have that quality overall.
There are still a couple of moments when Ommadon seems to be a bit less relentless, and grant us something more solid than their elusive drone and their never-ending patterns. The lead parts in “Side A” might appear in a simplistic form, but their conventional playing gives you something more familiar within the monotony of their music. Also, the groove comes in for the rescue a number of times. Very soon in the opening track, the band unleashes some of its more intoxicating grooves. Yeah, the tempo might be slow, but the drunken vibe that they are able to awaken is quite something, evolving from a slow offering to a stomach-churning spin. At other instances, they might throw in a more heavy rock themed otherworldly approach that gives a trippy – though not pleasant – quality to the song. And then, those parts add the necessary drive when that is needed, something that almost feels cathartic halfway in the second part of Empathy For The Wicked. Not that it makes things more bearable – not by a long shot – with the parts seemingly maximized as a result.
There is also a fair amount of an ambient approach in this album, when Ommadon are not consumed by their drone/doom selves. The start of the album actually even features a touch of noise in there, creating the necessary anticipation for when the heavy riffs destruction joins in. In the last minutes of the first part of the album, the band deconstructs the music, retreating into a primal ambient nature, with a rich textural background and some sparse, heavy riffs. That also washes over the second part, which takes over, and for its first eight minutes it slowly starts to transform the sonic landscape. The evolution that takes place might be slow, but it is seems to be ever changing, resulting in a dark and horrific offering as the feedback rages on.
Ommadon are cartographing the surface of a dark planet that the sun is unable to reach. They really take their time to construct their music, with the resulting sonic walls capable of sucking out all light. This is what Empathy For The Wicked is all about.