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Lurking doom, Ossuarium - Living Tomb Review

Updated: Jan 8, 2019

On debut LP Living Tomb, Portland's OSSUARIUM up the doom quotient to transcend into the corridors of unbeing.

Photograph by Matt Pie

Death doom has always been somewhat of a niche even within a niche subgenre. It gained a massive foothold initially in England with the Peaceville Three: PARADISE LOST, ANATHEMA and MY DYING BRIDE. They took the elements originally set forth by doom pioneers like PENTAGRAM, SAINT VITUS, BLACK SABBATH and CANDLEMASS and gave it a darker identity through the lens of the blossoming death metal scene. Many bands followed this style as the forerunners fell deeper into gothic territory and further from the death metal roots. But some didn't like it that way.

In the US, New York based band WINTER released the monumental 1990 LP Into Darkness. This record was miles away from what the Peaceville Three had began to foray into. They took the early material of those groups and gave it more of a CELTIC FROST styled kickstart and many bands followed suit. Meanwhile in Australia, DISEMBOWELMENT would make waves with a handful of demos, an EP, and one of the most interesting listening experiences ever with 1993's Transcendence Into the Peripheral. It combined the slow pace of doom metal with suffocating grindcore like blasts of spastic energy and added ambient music for good measure.

Now you're probably wondering what the history lesson is for. Well to truly understand Living Tomb, the debut from Portland, Oregon's OSSUARIUM, you have to look a bit into the past. Small bites of SLAYER-esque guitar histrionics begin this pummeling death doom beast and Blaze of Bodies delivers that right from the get go. The PARADISE LOST influence came in right from the beginning, but combines it with the aggressive war metal attack of Denver's OF FEATHER AND BONE. What I didn't expect came about a minute in, when the very familiar chiming clean guitars began. Clean chiming guitar passages were a trademark of the DISEMBOWELMENT sound and the only band that has been able to pull that off convincingly today is SPECTRAL VOICE. Even a fellow PNW band CAVURN has employed this technique, even though band members have claimed that came more as a direct influence from HELL and DISMA. OSSUARIUM pull it off in grand style and don't let it linger for too long. They have much bigger fish to fry.

SPECTRAL VOICE may have an influence on following track Vomiting Black Death, but there is a much more sinister and gothic feel to this track compared to the one previous. The death doom hasn't gone away, but it allows the gothic influence to shine for just brief snippets throughout. When the full on death metal attack returns, it brings me to the stellar INNUMERABLE FORMS, another modern band with major death doom credentials.

With some death doom, the songs can sometimes seem too cavernous and atmospheric, which is why I feel that the band's decision to record with Greg Wilkinson (NECROT, SCOLEX, MORTUOUS) at Earhammer Studios in Oakland was a major forward pass for a wide open touchdown. It seems that within the production of modern old school death and doom metal, Wilkinson can do no wrong. He is what makes every West Coast band sound so meticulously amazing. The only other underground producer that can rival him is his East Coast counterpart Arthur Rizk. OSSUARIUM benefit heavily from Wilkinson's understanding of dynamic range and subtle melody within the context of such extreme music. Also, the Dan Seagrave art? C'mon! What can be better than having cover art from one of metal's most iconic cover artists?!

While the doom side of this release is beyond solid, the death metal portions are just as tight and cohesive. Echoes of the Danish scene (UNDERGANG, PHRENELITH, WORMRIDDEN and HYPERDONTIA) subtly work their way into the riff structures and drum patterns of guitarists Daniel Kelley, Nate McCleary and drummer, Ryan Koger. The Danish sound is very sewage like in it's execution and fans will hear that sound almost instantly on Corrosive Hallucinations and Writhing In Emptiness. While it can be hard for some to find those Danish bands in the sound of a band who already has a very established sound, it can be a fun and exhilarating treat for those who have a trained ear for the nasty and slimy.

As the album plods forward, one must realize that the music has a much deeper meaning. Daniel Kelley spoke to Heaviest of Art about the lyrical content of the record and touches on how the record is dedicated to his late father. My heart and sympathies go out to Dan and his family and I honestly believe that with such heavy subject matter, heavy music will ensue both musically and lyrically. When an artist can translate those stressors into a cathartic listen, a major step forward in personal expression has been achieved.

The death doom revival in the last two or so years has seen an influx of incredible releases and Living Tomb will be the first salvo of insane fire releases from 20 Buck Spin in 2019. OSSUARIUM should be extremely proud of this menacing monolith of crushing putridity. It's only a matter of time before you hop on the train and you begin to partake in their riff soup and vomit black death yourself.

Overall score: 9/10

FFO: Spectral Voice, Disembowelment, Cavurn, Phrenelith, Hooded Menace, Vastum, Incantation and early Paradise Lost.

You best pre-order your physical copy of Living Tomb from 20 Buck Spin as soon as you can. Stream the lead single Blaze of Bodies on Bandcamp.

Cover art by Dan Seagrave


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