Post-metal has another highlight for 2018 with the diverse and progressive Exist.
This past year may be remembered for many things, but one thing that will certainly come to mind when I think of 2018 is the unprecedented number of great post-metal records that it produced. Highly anticipated albums and pleasant surprises litter the calendar and today I have another album that should catch your eyes (and ears). Ohhms, the Kent, UK progressive post-metal act are back with a new LP, Exist. If you are unfamiliar with the band, then perhaps mentioning the masterminds of Holy Roar Records are involved will help. Exist is a four-track trek through some seriously progressive moments which underscore just how confident and talented this band is.
Speaking of confidence, beginning your record with a 23-minute composition is the very definition of the word. “Subjects” weaves its way through a variety of moods and textures along the way, from the utterly bombastic ebbs and flows of a traditional post-metal song to the more subtle ambient moments with experimental percussion. Vocally, the track is just as diverse giving the listener a number of nuances to process while navigating this expansive opus. From tribal, funeral doom, and full-on metal moments, this is an incredibly dense song that dares you to listen but is, of course, rewarding when the entire journey is made from start to finish. Some of the transitions are abrupt and can be a little on the jarring side, but I feel like this was intended to be part of the experience as the album as a whole can take on this vibe at times.
“Shambles”, which is the lead single from the record, shows that Ohhms love to present music that’s undulating and murky, with little hints of grunge along the way. The dissonant harmonies present on this track reminded me immediately of Alice In Chains, and this works profoundly well on top of this style of music. Punchy bass, drums that thunder, and guitars that roar makes up the sonic canvas that showcase a genuinely melancholic moment on the album. Things slow down even further with “Calves”. As this style of music goes, there are few prettier songs to be heard. There’s deliberation in execution that is noticeable and settles into this part of the album nicely.
Exist spends less time with each song as the tracklist progresses which brings out some urgency in the pace of the album. The latter portion of “Calves” steps up the pace and intensity and dovetails nicely into the closer, “Lay Down Your Fire Arms”. By the time we reach this track, Ohhms is all out of patience and this a four-to-the-floor hardcore punk anthem with some mathcore sprinkled in for good measure. It’s frantic, unbridled, and wholly welcome. As its runtime grows, the musical insanity lessens and settles into a familiar mid-tempo to bring the record to its end. This approach surprised me, and I, for one, welcome the unpredictability. I thought I knew how Exist would sound from start to finish; I was proven wrong, and that feels good.
Fencing artists into specific genres make less and less sense as time goes on, and Ohhms are further proof of this. Their approach to songwriting and album composition is diverse and refreshing, making Exist one of the more enticing listens of the year. They take the old-fashioned progressive rock approach of creating transitions that are at times jarring, but demonstrate extreme confidence. That being said, this is an album that begs to be listened to in its entirety.