Ommadon’s doom-filled drone requires patience, willingness to suffer on gargantuan ‘V’

OmmadonRecently I was asked to explain drone and why the music has an effect on me. It’s a good question, and considering it’s a niche style of music, it’s completely understandable why someone standing on the other side of the fence would wonder these things and struggle to understand how the form of music is enjoyable.

Pure drone metal generally wallows in heavy doom, worships the riff, has no obvious melody lines that are hook-filled in nature, and often has no vocals. It’s an immersive experience, one to which the listener must subscribe and participate fully, otherwise it probably just sounds like noise hitting the floor. I say all of this because today’s record is a challenging one, that being Ommadon’s third full-length “V” (their first two demos got “I” and “II” titles, in case the new name seems odd). The Scottish instrumental duo is heavy as hell, incredibly dense, and utterly demanding of your time. This record doesn’t go down easily, even for someone like me who loves this style of music, and for those who aren’t inclined, this might be territory that forever goes undiscovered. That’s what happens with two-track records where one song is 47 minutes long, and the other one is only slightly shorter at 39 minutes. That’s a lot to ask, but for those of us who do feast on drone, it’s a collection we must conquer. And trust me, you will feel fuller for it once your reach the other side.

Ommadon coverAs noted, this band has but two members, both formerly of the group Snowblood. David Tobin handles guitar work and some of the noise elements, while Ewan Mackenzie is on drums, keys, and other noise contributions. They clearly are comfortable playing together, and it sounds like, as these two pieces progress, they’re in symbiosis with each other. This record, which was recorded live was mastered by Billy Anderson, also demands your patience in more ways than just its running time, though. There are very long portions of repetition, a hallmark of this style of music, and it’s there to create an atmosphere and get your head into the dream. Newcomers to this type of music, or even this band, might need to adjust on the fly, and that might not be easy. If you’re already tuned in, no explanation is needed, and you can slip under the dark waves and go for this mammoth journey.

First track “VI” runs 47:15, so basically it’s as long as many full metal records. Hell, it’s longer than most. The song open with some noise interference and slow pounding that begins to set the slithering, calculated pace. Sounds ramp up and fall, almost like a siren building and dissipating in the distance. That element returns often, as do the guitar riffs that dominate the bulk of the song. The exercise in extreme repetition really gets going, with the band sinking into it hard and making you commit. A wave of white noise begins to surface, and during the second half of the song, that becomes an even greater presence. The first hints of compositional changes strike at about the 30-minute mark, and they begin to bend melodies and add new twists into things. The temperature starts to rise, and along with it the humidity, and chillier guitars blend in and meet up with an added force of drone. Remember that white noise? It kicks back up and starts to take over, and the track eventually fades out into a sea of cosmos.

“V2” is just a bit shorter at 39:28, and it opens in feedback and crushing volume. Then everything gets celestial, feeling as if it’s floating off and into orbit, and the music becomes sleep inducing in the best possible way. That doesn’t mean it dulls you. Rather, it intoxicates, sort of like how your mind feels after a few strong beers. The band eventually hits a sludgy tone, letting things get uglier and burlier, and some of the elements and melodies from the first track revisit, helping tie this whole record together. The band keeps hammering with a fervor, punishing and unloading the lumber on you, and each haymaker they deliver does more damage and further aggravates the bruising. With about 10 minutes left, the white noise comes crashing again, but the riffs more than hold their own. The final minutes stomp like a mammoth, with more sludge rising up and everything in front of it being torn asunder. The calm then arrives as the track reaches its conclusion, with cold winds pouring out, the stars again becoming a destination point, and the song disappearing into darkness.

This record isn’t bound to be everyone’s thing. And that’s OK. People who can appreciate this level and style of drone metal are a special lot, and having records like this come along is like delving into a giant feast, or tapping into that stash of choice session ales you have been saving for a long day of exploration. It’s a thick, massive, crushing display, and it’s about as heavy a record as you’re going to find in this category. Ommadon are here to crush your will to live, and they’ll do that to you whether you understand their ways or not.

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