PICK OF THE WEEK: Oak’s spacious doom spills pain, utter despair through center of debut ‘Lone’

It’s getting toward the end of the year, and while this is a magical, joyous time for some, for others, it brings with it pain, depression, and bad tidings. The same could be said for the winter itself as it can look absolutely amazing outside, but inside one’s head, it can feel like the absolute worst as the sunshine turns gray, and seasonal misery sets into the bones.

That sets the stage for “Lone,” the debut record from Portuguese death/doom duo Oak, whose four-track collection is arriving Dec. 20 by way of Transcending Obscurity. Yeah, we’re a little early with this, but that’s because this is the final full week of reviews for this year (we have one more coming up next week), but we’d be remiss not to jump on this one, which hit us right in the guts. The pairing of guitarist/vocalist Guilherme Henriques and drummer Pedro Soares opens up a cavern to despair and disillusionment, meeting up with those dark feelings you might be experiencing as the year winds down. It’s a strong record that mixes brutality and melody, atmosphere and chaos, as the band pours down on you all of the smothering pain they can pack into four songs.

“Sculptures” slowly drips open as the drums begin to rumble, and then the 16:34-long puncher splits up the middle and spills. The growls lurch in Henriques’ stomach as they enter into a sorrowful atmosphere that’s both melodic and morose. Clean playing enters and floods while calm darkness spreads, and the playing continues to lap. Growls roar as slow-driving playing bores through your chest, the drums hammer your senses, and everything goes cold as the song bleeds away. “Mirror,” which runs 19:13 and is the longest cut here, follows as its slow drip starts to openly burn and churn as the growls corrode, and melodies bubble through the center. The track charges as the vocals blast, while the drums slowly awaken and bring on a calm murk. There’s a long instrumental section that conjures further misery while the track punishes anew, and growls and screams blend. The deluge of playing floods as everything moves back into darkness, with synth spreading like plague. The track tears shit apart again before the growls crush, and everything slips away.

“Abomination” is the tiniest of the bunch, clocking in at 6:19, which is long for many bands. The track pounds flesh as the growls bubble, and the guitars catch fire. The grimness stretches its wings and flies morbidly while the mashing slows down but still murders, as the calculated burning scorches flesh, and the track suffocates as it slips away. “Maze” is the 8:58 closer, and it bludgeons from the start, delivering punishment that lasts and hurts. Death madness reigns and eats through intestines while the playing pounds at already bruised bodies, as strange layers keep setting up on top of each other. The growls smother as the playing destroys bones, hammering away while growls move their way into hell, and the track comes to a heart-stopping finish.

The slithering slowness and thick shadows that permeate Oak’s killer debut “Lone” can swallow you whole and rob the light as you find yourself pulled down their dark tunnels. Their mix of swelling doom and fiery death doesn’t try to emulate anything that came before it and instead takes those building blocks and creates an atmospheric hell all their own. As our final pick of the week for 2019, this album nicely encapsulates the despair and hurt we’ve endured the previous 11 months.

For more on the band, go here: https://oakdoom.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://tometal.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: https://tometal.com/

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