Review: Kabbalah ‘The Omen’

I ’m a big fan of record label Ripple Music over in California, so it’s well past time that I had a listen to some of the stuff that’s being put out by their sister imprint Rebel Waves Records. Whereas Ripple Music primarily focus on stoner rock, doom and various flavours of old-school heavy metal, Rebel Waves was set up to cover the more garage-rock and psych end of heavy music. It’s only been going for a comparatively short time and, thanks to work and this pesky pandemic, I’ve been too busy/lazy to get round to listening to anything they’ve put out.

Anyway, the latest band signed to Rebel Waves is Kabbalah, a power trio from Pamplona who seem to have been pretty busy since their inception in 2013. The Omen is the band’s second album, following on from their self-titled debut released in 2017. Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading rave reviews of the album from people who are clearly better organised than I am but, while I enjoy the record, for me it’s definitely one to put on the ever-expanding good-but-not-great pile.

That said, there’s still plenty to like about The Omen. For starters, Kabbalahs’ basic sound is an interesting and refreshing take on the now (overly?) familiar template of occult doom. They’re not the most sonically dense or crushingly heavy band you’ll hear – solid bass laying down doomy riffs, with sometimes fuzzy, sometimes jangly guitar over the top. Sort of like a garage rock band covering Black Sabbath. Combined with the frequent use of vocal harmonies, it works really well. They manage to sound unsettling and genuinely occult, without falling into the trap of kitsch-ness.

The album starts of promisingly as well. Stigmatized shows all the good things that Kabbalah do, with bass underpinning the verses and the guitar really kicking in for the choruses. There are backing vocals and some subtle organ that further add to the creepy atmosphere. Which reminds me: I do really enjoy the production across the record, it’s organic and fuzzy but gives a gnarly biting edge to the guitar. It’s a good tune and, at just under four minutes, gets extra points for concision. Next up is Ceibas, which maintains the sinister, doom-y feel and is driven by chugging fuzzy riff. The change-up to the chorus is quality and there’s a decent guitar solo as well. You can see why this track was released as pre-album single, if such a thing still exists, as it’s a solid tune.

They manage to sound unsettling and genuinely occult, without falling into the trap of kitsch-ness…

After the opening salvo, there’s still some good stuff on The Omen, but each time I’ve listened to the record it feels as though it gradually loses momentum and my attention has begun to wander. Third track Night Comes Near is a good example. There’s nothing wrong with the track and there’s no jarring change of pace or loss of atmosphere. It’s just… a bit dull, I suppose.

And I could say similar things about the rest of the album really. It’s well-played and atmospheric, but there isn’t much that grabs me and it does start to get a bit same-y. The pacey opening of Labyrinth always makes me prick my ears up, but then it too seems to run out of steam. Duna feels subtly and refreshingly different, for some reason it makes me think of what The Bangles would sound like if they became committed Satanists and listened to a lot of Pentagam, but I find album closer Liturgy eminently forgettable and a bit of a low note to finish proceedings on.

All of this is my just opinion and, given that I once taped Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire off the radio, you probably shouldn’t take it too seriously. I enjoyed Kabbalah’s fusion of occult doom and garage rock and there are some good tunes on The Omen, but ultimately it isn’t one I’d tag as a keeper.

Label: Rebel Waves Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Liam Blanc