Review: Onhou ‘Monument’
Heading out of Groningen, Dutch bruisers Onhou are coming for you, and it would appear the aim is aural destruction, beyond all belief. The four piece are dragging the corpse of latest offering, Monument, into your path, with the intent to destroy your tiny tranquillity, with a release so visceral, and dirty, that if it doesn’t leave you uneasy and feeling filthy, then you could well already be dead.
Monument is effectively four tracks, with a run time of just over forty-one minutes, which feels more like an endurance test of your very being, than it does a pleasurable ride through the countryside, on a sunny summer’s day. If you think of your worst nightmares brought to life in sonic form, then you could well be listening to Onhou.
Just to clarify, at this point, I am not, by any means, saying this is a bad thing. It isn’t. This album is so darkly delicious, that it stamps a mark on just how crushing Onhou are. The fusing of stoner doom and post-metal vitriol is so dense, that it will leave you feeling like you’ve waded through hell, hoping for an escape, only to find there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
There is no letup over the course of the four tracks, the intensity, even during the lulls, is so crushing it hurts. When it’s up, it’s brutal, and when it’s down, holy fuck, is it painful to escape the feelings of dread.
Album opener When On High sets the tone, and for the uninitiated, this can be pretty overwhelming. The sludgy, heavy drone is inescapable, and when it hits, it’s soul crushing. Between the guttural growls, and zombie howls, lies the aural assault on your senses, which is quickly over powering. Hard as nails, and pummelling, it’s like hell unleashed. The claustrophobic, never-ending persistence, is a hard pill to swallow, and it will leave you in complete despair. With an intensity that elevates this from mere moodiness, and well into psychosis, Onhou envelops us in a world of darkness, unseen, yet murderous.
If you think of your worst nightmares brought to life in sonic form, then you could well be listening to Onhou…
Track two, Null, only serves to compact this feeling, and solidify Onhou’s need to destroy all it comes across. A wail of feedback ushers us in, and with its slow pained drudge, set to a vocal of unhinged growls, the scene is set. It’s filthy, and what you imagine when you read the word ‘sludge’ in a review, this is what you are getting here. It’s going to leave you feeling beaten and dirty. There’s no point going beyond this because until you have witnessed it for yourself, you won’t get the true feeling based on my words alone. Disgracefully brutal, yet pleasingly anarchic, the pursuit of intensity reaches its full potential here. You have been warned.
Below, the third instalment, starts pensively, before opening out a couple of minutes into a thunderous soundtrack, laced with those ever-present guttural growls. The atmospheric pressure is unrelenting, and with lyrics such as ‘silence is golden’, it does leave you wondering if that is at all true, because after listening to this, silence to reflect is probably the last thing you will want or even need. You won’t want to be left with your thoughts, because they will surely be very dark indeed. In true sludge style, the cataclysmic feral abrasiveness makes this impossible to ignore, Onhou truly understand what it takes, and just how to hit those naughty little dark spots in your soul, and drag the life force out by the face, without even breaking a sweat.
Ruins finishes the album, and even though its only track four, it’s definitely been a long, dank journey to get to this point. A slow, lurching start is broken just after a minute and a half, by the fourth return to hell, as if there was ever any doubt as to its intentions. Again, all of the now recognisable Onhou traits are here, and it truly feels like a physical attack. By the time it is trailing off, I’m feeling the need to both process, and completely avoid, my thoughts on what I’ve just experienced.
Yes, it’s crushingly visceral, to a level unparalleled by any other genre outside of sludge, but also, Onhou seems to elevate themselves far beyond becoming a cliché for the sub-genre. It is instantly recognisable, yet compelling too. This album isn’t for the weak willed. It isn’t for the general public, and even within your circle of close heavy music compadres, it will divide opinions, but if you’re truly seeking an experience that takes you far beyond your ideas of what sludge is, then this should be the ONLY album you will need to purchase.
In an underground scene, made of underground genres, this could well be the most elusive, but with Onhou being part of it all, excelling in technique and style, this is the benchmark to set your levels to. So set your senses to numb, turn up your music box, and give yourself to Onhou, honestly, it’s the only way you are going to get through alive.
Yes, beaten to a bloody pulp, but alive… Hopefully
Label: Lay Bare Recordings | Tartarus Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram
Scribed by: Lee Beamish