Seeing as how I write for this website, with the explanatory word “punk” in the title, I don’t know a whole lot about the extreme and underground genres of metal. Although aware of and theoretically appreciative, I can’t tell the difference between black metal, death metal, doom metal, etc. I do know that that guy, Varg Vikernes, that killed his bandmate in Mayhem, was recently released from prison in Norway. Regardless of my lack of knowledge of this type of music, I have ears and will attempt an honest review of what I hear and how it makes me feel. Please disregard the starred score.
That said, I did do some research and according to Wikipedia, “doom metal” is “is a form of heavy metal music that typically employs very slow tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much 'thicker' or 'heavier' sound than other metal genres. Both the music and the lyrics intend to evoke a sense of despair, dread, and impending doom.” That pretty much sums up what’s happening with Oak a majority of the time.
The first few minutes of this self-titled four-song LP feature nothing but feedback, distant vocals and a whole lot of despair. Ultimately, that first track, “Saline” does turn into something of a traditional song with some respectable down-tuned riffing with a very cool, natural, flowing drum feel. I think the sparseness of the typical full band interaction is what makes it sound so pleasing when it happens.
However, the more straightforward moments don’t last long before it’s back to the atmospheric pit-of-hell looming. The second track, “Inside the Circle” builds over a long period of time with distorted ringing guitars that ultimately give way to an incredibly slow harmonized riff. Again, what keeps it together for me is the expertly performed drums. I’m sure it’s rare to find a talented drummer into this type of music and Oak certainly have one.
The lyrics are printed on the sleeve, although I’m not entirely convinced that the inhuman shrieking and moaning I’m hearing matches the printed words; still, it fits the music all the same. The printed lyrics are definitely some dark shit with the first track describing the inner thoughts of a person committing a triple murder. Matched with allusions to Christianity, the text could be read as a metaphor for losing childhood faith in religion, and as a whole is surprisingly literary. There’s definitely more going on than just butchered bodies, but don’t fret, that’s there too! In addition, in the artwork and lyrics, there are tons of allusions to Satan and Satanism, but they are kind of hidden. I had to look these up, but there are references to “Belial,” who is something like Satan’s right hand demon, and “Shemhamforash,” which seems to have a variety of meanings, but is apparently often used in Satanic acts.
As I listen to this record, I picture crypts and terrifying caves with rotting corpses. I wonder how the vocalist can get his voice to sound like that, and ultimately I wait for something to happen, because when it does, it’s actually really cool. This one probably won’t make it from the shelf to the turntable very often, but it is definitely well done for what it is.