Review Summary: Spacious, albeit goofy, murk
One of the first things to strike me about Living Tomb
, the first full-length release from Portland death-doom band Ossuarium, is the production. After the gong hit ends the introduction track, “Blaze of Bodies” hits with a powerful punch, but one that is cloaked in dense fog. The wide-reaching reverb that soaks this record gives the music a strange atmosphere, one that very much matches the album cover. It’s cold, foggy, swampy, and abandoned, like remnants of something once grand. There’s an almost fantastical air amongst these tracks that separates the general tone from obvious influences like Autopsy and Cianide. The way the vocals seem to bounce off the walls makes it seem like the only other living thing occupying this ruin with you is constantly just ahead, waiting to do God knows what to you.
On second thought, maybe it's not quite that serious.
The song compositions, while borrowing from many past and present USDM groups, smoothly transition from slow burn moments of foreboding anticipation to adrenaline pumping segments of violent action. Throughout the ebbs of adrenaline are incredibly infectious melodies, like that descending “Corrosive Hallucinations” riff at 4 minutes in or that nasty groove at the start of “Writhing in Emptiness,” that feel made for the pit, but don’t take away from the cold atmosphere. It’s all very cheesy, the setting and the general aura, but the fun sort of cheesy you’d get from a well constructed Dungeons and Dragons crypt or one of the many dank pits featured in the Lord of the Rings. In other words, it’s far from legitimately anxiety inducing, but layers on the cavernous environment that a title like Living Tomb
It’s not perfect by any means, it’s a somewhat predictable record that doesn't deviate far from the norm. Compared to Cenotaph Obscure
from a few months ago (or really any of Obliteration’s records) and the bands these guys borrow from, it lacks nuance and innovation, but it’s undeniably fun and surprisingly immersive. This style really allows for less unique takes on the genre to still feel great, and once it gets going around “Writhing in Emptiness,” it goes until the last second of “End of Life Dreams and Visions Pt. 2,” effectively delivering a much stronger back half. With the kind of charisma that (presumably) translates into a killer stage presence and enough riffs to choke a small animal, Ossuarium has put themselves firmly on my radar. This is a very good start, enough to draw attention in a sea of 20 Buck Spin contemporaries.