Portland's Ossuarium might be on their way to becoming the next great American death metal band.
Great death metal albums should reward multiple listens. They can do this by containing lots of catchy and memorable moments that stay with you long after the music stops (see: Obituary, Deicide, Possessed, early Death). Alternatively, there are some records that steer in a more progressive direction, giving your sonic appetite more to chew each time you return (see: Atheist, Nocturnus, later Death). But then there are those bands that strike that irresistible balance between memorability and exploration (see: Demigod, Convulse, Human-era Death). Ossuarium's fantastic debut album, Living Tomb, sits comfortably in the last category.
Ossuarium excels at both compact bangers like "Blaze of Bodies" and longer, more adventurous numbers like "Corrosive Hallucinations." This is because they have an excellent mind for dynamics: where the bridges actually do what they're supposed to do. They keep the listener interested while transporting them from one crushing riff to the next. As you listen to the album from back-to-front, you can immediately sense the amount of care that went into composing every moment. The kick drums come in at just the right time, the riffs dig into your soul but not in a repetitive way, and the extra layers of effect-laden guitars are placed perfectly. And yes, a running theme with any death metal review I do: there's lots of technical talent to be heard here… but no useless noodling! Rejoice!
The band's attention to creating an atmosphere is also present. It's aggressive, with tons of stomping energy to go around, but also cavernous enough to create a creepy and ominous listening experience. Yet, it's not so cavernous that you can't hear what the hell is going on—blackened sludge bands: take note. They wear their influences very much on their denim and leather sleeves here: Ossuarium really like Finnish death metal and thank goodness for that. When it comes to micro-genre revivals these days, the style of Karelian Isthmus, World Without God, Member of Mortal Damnation and Slumber of Sullen Eyes lays out vast pastures of musical possibilities. The Swedish HM-2 style is cool, but there's enough to go around now.
The record as a complete package is just a grim joy to listen to. Perfect guitar tones slide easily from chord-driven waves to E-string thunderstorms. There are impressive but not overly busy drums and lots of reverb on the vocals. Hell, I even like the jam-session feel of "Vomiting Black Death." The song takes a while to get going, but it's a worthwhile journey to get there. It also doesn't hurt to have a fitting piece of album art, created by none other than Dan Seagrave himself!
This band has a bright (er…dark?) future ahead of it in the world of death metal. It would be fantastic hear songs like "Writing in Emptiness" roar into crowds at Maryland Deathfest one day, and all fans of dark, brooding extreme music should celebrate the arrival of Ossuarium to the scene.
Favorite songs: "Blaze of Bodies," "Corrosive Hallucinations" and "Writhing in Emptiness"