It’s pretty easy for people to write off criminals or those who erupt in violence as bad seeds who contribute nothing to society and are only out to bring misery. That’s not necessarily untrue. But often there is so much more lying underneath the surface that leads people to evil actions that cannot go dismissed or swept under the rug.
Often, people simply want to put all the blame on the person, for they can choose right and wrong. Again, it’s natural to feel that way. But extenuating circumstances often play a giant role. NFL players have killed themselves, and the result for many is they suffered from brain damage and levels of CTE. They have no control over how they feel. Pro wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his entire family in cold blood, and later, examinations of his brain showed significant damage. That very well could have led to that horrible tragedy. And then there’s Charles Whitman, the infamous “Texas Tower Sniper,” who, after murdering his wife and mother, shot from the tower at University of Texas at Austin, killing 14 and wounding 32. Later it was discovered he had a tumor on his amygdala, the part of the brain that regulates emotions and can cause great impairment if damaged. All of this is the subject matter of “All Too Human,” the amazing new record from Oskoreien, the one-man project helmed by Jay Valena. It’s a four-part concept piece examining true will, inspired by Whitman’s story and what became of him.
We just visited with Oskoreien not long ago when we discussed this project’s great split with Botanist, but this record is the first full-length since the 2011 self-titled debut. Here, Valena plies his trade in noisy, sooty black metal, the kind that sounds like it was born out of psychological isolation, something that is quite apropos when discussing this record. The songs are packed with anguish and punishment, though not of the typical black metal stereotypes. There’s a true human depth to this music which is very tangible, and you walk away from this impacted, perhaps placing more thought on the evils in the world and what’s truly behind everything. Sometimes it’s just pure evil. But not always.
The record starts with “Moai” as guitars awaken and spread out, as the sound continues to build. Melodies pour as Valena’s shrieks are unleashed, feeling tortured and raw, as if they’re coming from a diseased gut. Anguish gushes all over this, as the wrenching vocals continue and deface the path, with guitars lapping over top of the chaos, melodies swirling and dive-bombing, and the whole thing burning off like an oil fire. “Green and Maroon” starts with guitars unleashing small doses of pain, followed by horrifying shrieks that should cause chills to blast up your spine. The music gnaws at your senses, in a similar way as Whitman’s brain was being compromised, and guitars and laser beam strikes rip through, letting darkness spill into the void. A slow, reflective passage unfurls itself before the cut bursts all over, sending wild wails and thick muck flying into your face.
“Ab Aeterno, Ad Infinitum” splashes dark, doomy colors, with the track echoing and haunting over its first few minutes. Once the song rips from the cracks, the vocals are ripe with strangulation, and a great stretch of lead guitar play sprawls impressively. That heads into a horrifying mud pit, filled with a thousand lost souls and their bones, and then a passage that feels like static-filled ISIS lands and delivers body blows. More spacious soloing arrives, which heads into furious chugging, and a solemn glow emerges from that and spreads until the end of the song. Closer “My Flesh Is But a Vessel” gets off to a bashing start, laying waste to any hint of calm and layering frantic cries over a slow-driving tempo. Things begin to hulk along, but then a solemn wind blows in and leads to the next bit of savagery. The playing turns into a series of gut punches, as the cymbals taking a smashing and noise hangs in the air. Soloing bubbles as deep folds of sorrow bring a final dark curtain down on this tragic, too-familiar story.
Valena is having an impressive year, what with his split recording and this excellent new album “All Too Human.” This music reminds us that stories, people, and tragedies are not always black and white, and while we kneejerk and point fingers, sometimes all the layers need to be pulled back first. This is a strong late-year record that should resonate well into 2017 and beyond.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Oskoreienband/
To buy the album, go here: http://oskoreien.com/album/all-too-human