Monolithic ur-doom-drone druidic duo Ommadon have been engaged on a monomaniacal quest to melt solid stone, liquefy internal organs and vibrate this entire world out of phase and into an adjacent dimension utilising only drums, amps and a singular guitar over the course of the last four years and now it seems that with V, their fifth recording and first foray into the world of vinyl, they may be a wizard’s whisker away from achieving that goal.
Recorded alone and entirely live with no overdubs or tweaking in the Scottish highlands during the winter of 2012/2013, V shows guitarist David Tobin and drummer Ewan MacKenzie – for Ommadon is they – at the height of their powers and near-telepathic interplay as they push and pull the dynamics of the molasses-thick guitar and drum sound around, moulding and shaping it like a primitivist aural sculpture.
As with their previous release IV, V is made up of two colossal pieces of music, with V1 weighing in at a shade over forty-seven minutes in length and V2 coming in shamefully just under the forty minute mark, but with each chopped in half and spread across the four sides of vinyl in this double LP set.
Now, although it’s great to see Ommadon finally given the vinyl treatment, I can’t help but feel like having a piece of music that ebbs, flows and unfurls over a long length of time cut in two due to the obvious restriction of the available length of time on a side of vinyl is a little jarring.
Having the record come to the end of a side, necessitating a trip to the record player to turn it over really kinda breaks the state that one can get into while listening to this kind of long-form music. Thankfully, both tracks are available to download from Ommadon‘s Bandcamp page as a ‘name your price’ purchase, so the option to listen to them in their unbroken state is there if you so choose it.
As to the two monsters that make up V themselves, well, by this point – fifth release in a four year span, time spent playing together with little to no interference – Ommadon have honed their art to as fine a point as a blunt instrument such as theirs can possess. Tobin and MacKenzie know exactly what they are about, and what they are about is thick, raw-toned, dynamic drone-doom. Stripped of all extraneous baggage such as vocals, multiple guitar tracks, solos and basslines, Tobin’s guitar and MacKenzie’s percussive battery are the entirety of the sound……aside from one less easily definable yet absolutely crucial thing – environment.
Running parallel to the immense grinding guitar chords, glacially slow, thrumming, humming runs and battering, smashing percussion is a sound that cannot be clearly identified, a roaring, subtly howling tone that can only really be the sound of the Scottish highlands itself – the wind rushing across the bleak landscape, through the trees and welding itself to the guitar, drums and amp sounds to create a sound that is wholly Ommadon‘s. Sure, there are other duos and bands doing the minimalist enormo-drone-doom thang, and some of them are fairly interchangeable, but none of them sound like this, only Ommadon.
Both V1 and V2 are constructed from very much the same colossally-hewn building blocks, as is true of all of Ommadon‘s music, but it shows the signs of having been honed and – if such a word can be used in the context of the sound of Ommadon – finessed in the crucible of experience into its purest form in an act of musical alchemy. It may be a raw sound, but it has been refined and controlled into exactly what it needs to be.
Enormous chords hang in negative space before being dropped into new formations via atonal clusters of smoothly enunciated slow legato runs, welded together with arcing feedback. Drums batter and cymbals splash, twisting around and through the blocks of guitar before both fall into step, lurching together into a momentary semblance of riffage that fleetingly appears and then flies apart again. The two instruments orbit one another in what appear to be irregular ellipses and then smash together, creating showers of sparking amp grind, and always, always that churning howl of the very air around the two players being rent by the unnatural sounds being foisted upon the landscape.
The endless dynamic push and pull between Tobin and MacKenzie is the engine room that fuels the sound of Ommadon, and on V that dynamic is at its pinnacle as the duo lumber, lurch, smash and hover their way through an unearthly ninety minutes.
Grumbles about formatting aside, with V Ommadon categorically prove that it is still possible to make compelling music within the field of drone-doom, an area that I personally had considered long since mined dry.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson