Perhaps it is the intrinsic uniqueness of OHHMS that until now has seemingly prevented them from receiving the widespread adulation that this most mercurial of acts undoubtedly merits. You would have difficulty shoveling them into a pigeonhole and could easily try a good half-dozen and still find yourself flummoxed.
From their early EPs full of promise through to inspirational debut album The Fool, OHHMS have continued to probe, pleasure and purloin like few others. New release Close completes a trilogy of releases which began with Bloom in 2014, with Cold sandwiched between the two.
While their reputation has deservedly seen them grace stages far and wide, including notable festival bookings at the likes of Bloodstock, it can only be hoped that new album Close, which is understatedly brilliant, can open even more doors for the Canterbury crew in the future.
Close, which was released recently via Holy Roar Records – a label to which they are both musically and holistically well matched – opens in typically vibrant fashion with ‘Alive’. A reassuring smooth extended intro finally gives way to Paul Waller’s earthy cry of “I’m born, born wired,” followed by a percussive explosion that shatters the earlier calm and tranquility. From there on in, the guitars criss-cross violently, the drums descend to send things spiraling dangerously out of control, leaving Waller to plead “I can’t get no satisfaction,” the ‘antithesis of analysis’ line further reminding us of Waller’s wordsmith wizardry.
One facet of Close that differentiates from much of their previous work is the absence of very long tracks and the injection of several mini pieces of just two or three minutes each. This means in total the album stands up at just over half-an-hour. After the fleeting ambience of ((Flaming Youth)) Ohhms – the ensemble completed by Max Newton, Stuart Day, Marc Prentice, and irascible guitarist Chainy Rabbit – drift into the album’s lengthiest composition ‘Revenge’. This finds Waller in particularly agitated form, his edginess in keeping with the sweeping cacophony that ebbs and flows throughout the frenetic nine minutes.
The two-minute sample ((Strange Ways)) is an unerring reflective pause, briefly given life by some children’s voices but before you can truly digest it the deeper full roast of ‘Destroyer’ rumbles menacingly into view. The hook of the track sees Waller’s agnostic front surface as with increasing fanaticism he hollers “there is no God, there’s only God” as sporadic psychedelic threads sprinkle a layer of sun above the darker underbelly.
As brief as ‘Asylum’ is, it’s also an album highlight. Waller almost in pied piper mode hailing “they’re coming to take us away my friends,” almost lifted from the pages of a particularly dark and inauspicious Victorian nursery rhyme as the belts of the straightjacket are tugged tight.
Ohhms have seemingly left behind their initial doom dalliance. We saw on The Fool a penchant for broader aural aesthetics and their inquiring minds have maintained that here, never afraid to approach something from a fresh angle when it feels right to do so. Much of the content, while never explicitly conveyed, is certainly in part shaped by Waller’s boyhood, referencing things that left their mark during his youth.
The album artwork is a simple depiction of a dragonfly, an insect whose lifespan is ultimately cruelly curtailed. Ohhms have already shown they are here for the long haul, stretching their wings even further on Close with a suitably impressive display of vision and verve.
Released via Holy Roar Records on 26 June 2020
Review by Paul Castles
- ((Flaming Youth))
- ((Strange Ways))