Release Date: February 24, 2014
Studio: Howl Street Recordings
Genre: Sludge Rock/Metal/Experimental
For Fans of: A Perfect Circle, Trenches, System of a Down, Tool
Pioneering bands within the more modern stylings of metal and hardcore, such as Underoath and As I Lay Dying, discovered that they were influencing hordes of new bands that wanted to emulate the simultaneously catchy and heavy vibes that such bands gave off. Despite such fervency throughout the support base of fans, music starts to become more of a product and less of an art when bands are striving too hard to imitate, and not merely use their favorite bands as catalysts for their own craft.
The concept of “heavy” is an oft-sought-after ideal in the worlds of metal, hardcore and hard rock, but the seemingly elusive aim is often defined too narrowly. If a band does not have a certain amount of breakdowns or bass drops, some cliques of fans may not even give them a chance. Oxblood is the daring type of band that decides to jump off the deep end, pushing past the paradigms that certain heavy music fans would hold as prerequisites for good music, and craft a sound of their own.
Oxblood grabs the listener and throws them right into the thick of it with the punishingly heavy “Liars.” Where some bands might try to warm their listeners up to the fullest expression of their sonic onslaught, Oxblood holds nothing back and pushes their gravelly, beefy combination of sludgy rock and metal straight out of the listener’s speakers. Bassist Andrew’s tone fits the band’s style like a hand to a glove, fleshing out the bottom end with dirty and distorted bass lines. For a three-piece band, guitarist Ben does a great job at filling out the higher range of stringed instrumentation.
“Geist” is a fantastically groovy track, as the band places driving, aggressive riffs right next to passages of the band’s lighter and more vulnerable side. It is impressive that a band like Oxblood can make timely room for calmer riffs in the middle of an EP. Most bands in their genre would just want to thrash about onstage and skip melodic and reflective moments altogether. On Tides, Oxblood synchronizes their dark and muddy tone with solid production.
On “Burned,” the band turns the heat right back up as they march confidently forward with their brand of sludgy but focused aggression. Each member in Oxblood performs vocals, and “Burned” is a highlight of the band’s placement of haunting clean vocals, another mark of a band willing to produce the sound they desire and nothing less. Regarding vocals as a whole, Oxblood has a unique take on harsh vocals, not falling strictly into more traditional preferences of metal and rock bands. Their discontented shouts and furious yells lend a powerful hand to Oxblood’s vigorous sound.
Final cut “Torn” comes as quite a surprise, as the band summons up incredibly melodic and ruminative riffs and guitar lines. This final track seems to have been very correctly placed as the last track on Tides, as such a decision brings forth two possible conclusions. Oxblood may have placed this track last as an indication toward where the band will take their musical inclinations in the future. It may have also been placed as last to keep the listener unsuspecting, and to bring a different emotion into Oxblood’s sound, thereby producing an even richer listening experience than if the song were to be first or non-existent.
“Torn” is likely the band’s most concise showcasing of talent on Tides, and drummer Brandon lays down dozens of articulate and tasteful fills. His kit comes through clearly in the mix, and his dynamic integration with his bandmates is well performed. Most of “Torn” is instrumental, before vocals return during the last few minutes to drive home the band’s final lyrical offerings.
From a bird’s eye view, Tides is very well composed, instrumentally and sonically diverse, lyrically unrelenting and fully entertaining. Oxblood is a young band, having only been in motion for two years, but it will come as no surprise if their name continues to pop up on concert flyers around Chicagoland. One aspect that plays to the band’s favor is that their musical characteristics are varied enough such that they can strike a chord amongst both metal and rock fans. Oxblood’s willingness to create the music that they want plays highly in their favor. Tides can be streamed and purchased through the band’s Bandcamp included below. Keep your eyes out for the future releases of this highly talented trio.
Underground Examinations is a series of Independent Music Reviews with the intention of giving new music a fair and appropriate opportunity to be enjoyed.
Review by Brad Johnson