They do say you can’t judge a book by the cover. That may well be true but books is books baby and music is a whole different ball game. One look at this incredibly impressively packaged debut from Ogressa and you know exactly what you’re dealing with…Conan-esque, muscular she creatures, fearsome beasts…this is going to be some heavy shit for sure!!!
Ogressa are something of a stoner rocking supergroup featuring guitarist Zach Huskey from Dali’s Llama, vocalist Trent Ramseyer from Whores of Tijuana, drummer Ian Dye from Ape Has Killed Ape and bassist Mike Jacobson from Hot Beat Pussy Fiend. Production was overseen by the legendary Scott Reeder who also layed down some bass on three of the tracks. So with this pedigree this should, by rights, be a monumental killer of an album. Well, although this is undoubtedly a very fine album it does fall slightly short of having that decisive killer blow as it does fall prey to that old chestnut “heard it all before”.
Opener “Give Me Some Space” is a decent enough Orange Goblin inspired rocking romp with some very Ben Ward-esqe vocals from Ramseyer. It rolls along at a decent pace but would have benefitted from a little editing in its structure as it does start to outstay its welcome after a while. Things improve on “Mange” which features a nice descending riff, a strong chorus and some nice lead work. Again it’s nothing you haven’t heard before but a good song is a good song right.
It may take a while to get going but “Rational Man” is a definite highlight rolling along on a bouncy 70’s inspired riff and showing that Ogressa do have a neat grasp of some cool song writing chops. Again though a little self editing wouldn’t have gone amiss as the last two minutes of the song, although decent enough, don’t really add anything essential. Following this 70’s riff fest, “She Awakens” is a rather pointless mood setting minute or so of rattling chains and faint grunting noises before “Lady Ogress” drifts in on a lazy, St Vitus like doom riff. Again it’s ok but seems to be a doom-by-numbers token nod to those that hanker after some slothful rhythms and down tuned despondency. It does pick up the pace half way through with a riff that, strangely enough, echoes the Munsters’ theme song before the call of the dirge proves too strong to resist. It’s all ok but nothing Vitus and Pentagram haven’t done already and with far more appeal.
“The Boss” does offer some respite from the riff onslaught being a jazzy infused bluesy instrumental that wouldn’t have been entirely out of place on the first Jethro Tull album. It shows off Huskey’s chops and his flair for some tasteful lead playing and certainly does stand out from everything that has preceeded it. At this point, however, it does start to dawn that maybe Ogressa are trying a little hard to be all things to all people. We’ve had rampant stoner rock, 70’s riff rock, crawling doom and now the blues. Ogressa seem to be struggling to find themselves an identity and that notion is compounded on the next track “Sonoran Debris” which is a lengthy acoustic number. Now in fairness this is a very good track and shows Ramseyer easing back on the gruff howl he has perfected elsewhere to deliver a vocal that is understated and heartfelt showing that there is more depth to his approach than it seems at first. Again though, the knife could have dropped and taken out some of the lead break which does seem to lose its way half way through and would have made the whole song far more succinct.
“Cuts On My Scars” sees Ogressa back on the riff trail as a chunky guitar figure concedes to a balls out, punked up verse that is high in energy but is let down slightly by the dissonant chorus that is oddly jarring and while possibly attempting to add a sense of experimentalism just sounds slightly forced and out of tune. “Snakehead”, however, is a definite improvement. It may plumb the same doom territory as “Lady Ogress” but lifts things with a nice rolling groove and a southern twang in the vocals that add a touch more soul to the proceedings. At nearly six minutes it is maybe a touch overlong again but hey, let’s not quibble too much when the song itself remains pretty strong throughout even ending on a fairly tasty rock out!!!
“Animal Mask” closes the album and seems to want to try and tie in the band’s sound under one unmbrella as a weighty doom riff gives way to a stoned out chuggy verse, a 70’s rocking chorus, a twangy blues solo and a full bore rock out to the end. Ramseyer is in fine voice on this track and delivers his part with serious assurance.
This is by no means a bad album, it has more than its fair share of tasty riffing going on and some fine performances from Huskey and Ramseyer. That’s not to say that the rhythm section don’t acquit themselves well but this does seem to be more of a showcase for the guitars and vocals. Overall though there is something lacking despite the obvious plus points. Maybe the issue with what does appear to be a side project is that these guys haven’t yet found their identity and have time to gel and feel each other out. There is a sense of just getting together, writing a few tunes then recording them as opposed to taking the time to grow as a band and hone their craft. It doesn’t help that the production is also a little flat, the guitars sound thin as opposed to crushing and the bass grunts in vain as opposed to laying down a colossal rumble that this album definitely needs.
Ogressa have a lot of potential and have some fine moments up their sleeves but now they need to hit the road and find their own stride.
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall