I wish I could say it was due to some unheralded gift for clairvoyance that I could predict what Ommadon’s latest Empathy For The Wicked would sound like before even playing it; the album title, the artwork – it screams ‘Sunn O))), the early years’; you could probably even interchange album titles and inlay art for The Grimm Robe Demos or 00 Void and achieve the same results. So, despite obvious similarities to Greg Anderson and Co., the UK duo still draws in a solid following and did receive some pretty high praise for 2014’s double LP V (cracked Rolling Stone’s 20 Best Metal Albums of 2014). So they must have some ‘magic formula’ that’s mesmerizing the general public.
But I can’t help but be reminded of the originators and trailblazers like Sunn O))) or Unearthly Trance when Side A of Empathy For The Wicked pounds away for 20+ minutes with that viciously twisted down-tuned sound, pleasantly familiar but growing more and more common. Ommadon does excel, however, in creating the cold, oppressive atmosphere (mastering credits go to Billy Anderson) that earlier Unearthly Trance records (Season of Séance, Science of Silence or The Trident) masterfully captured. And it seems the duo places a great deal of importance on the ‘spirit’ behind the atmosphere – all of their preceding scores were recorded live in the Highlands of Scotland, in isolation.
Although Empathy For The Wicked is the first release to be recorded in Northumberland’s ‘urban suburbia’, it still retains plenty of muscle and haunted charm sufficient to crush teeth and nails – the kind of sonic nauseant we all crave; so although ‘originality’ is not necessarily on the menu when you listen to this one (unless you’re that one angst ridden misanthrope who’s been stranded in some remote part of Greenland without internet access and thinks Southern Lord is indeed some bible thumping madman from Georgia), it’s a damn treat to jam to. And in the end, it’s not really so bad that the duo rocks out in the vein of O’Malley (literally the extended drones of Side B, another 20+ minutes, could serve as the hypothetical White 3). But all facts aside, this group deserves to stand on their own…and eventually a group, with their talent, gets tired of living in the shadow of their influences. Isn’t it time to turn the lights on?
Scribed by: Jeremy Moore