The onslaught of the new wave of progressive metal continues. Enter Oni, a Canadian band who are surfing right along that wave. Their debut, Ironshore is just a solid assault of groovy modern prog (not to be confused with djent) that surprises in a plethora of ways. Occupying a space similar to bands like Textures, Persefone and Alustrium, this album should be a bar for up and coming bands to be measured against.
Where to start? Perhaps the most immediately striking aspect of Ironshore is its production. The band sounds exceedingly crisp without falling into the trappings of modern metal (read: production that sucks all the life out of a band’s instruments). The guitars are a perfect balance of the crunchy mid-2000s sound with the tightness of contemporary releases. Every chug hits hard, every snare hit cuts through, every note in a technical flurry is heard clearly, the keys augment everything else subtly. And don’t forget the vocals, which sit at a very pleasant—yet aggressive—spot. The impact of every small bit in the album is quite essential to the house of cards that is Ironshore, and it passes with flying colors in that avenue, which is not something a fledgling band always gets right.
A complaint that can be leveled against bands that blend prog and groove metal is that they often do not get the balance between the two genres quite right. Too much noodling can drag an album down with no relatable moments throughout a long runtime, and too much chugging can get repetitive and banal. To Oni’s credit, they nail this balance pretty much perfectly. Never do they rely on just their rhythm section to carry them along, and neither do they devolve into simply aimless wankery. Every technical lick has a catchy cadence to it, and every headbanging riff has an interesting twist to it. Coupled with how snappy everything sounds, all of this comes together to make Ironshore just a blast to listen to. Combined with the variety of vocal styles (clean singing, throaty yelling and Randy Blythe-esque midrange screaming and more), Oni have the complete package.
Another trap that this type of band often falls into is an album that feels overly long. It’s hard to keep a formula that’s this precise going consistently throughout a full length while keeping it varied. Oni don’t get tripped up here either, as they have songs of varying speeds and intensities. Each track has hooks, ups and downs, and none of them overstay their welcome. This is helped by the band’s demonstration of their understanding of concise songwriting. They employ a blend of repetition and unique riffs that feel just right—never does a section repeat enough to become tedious, but songs don’t feel like an assortment of riffs that don’t tie together.
Overall, Ironshore is a serious achievement in terms of how expertly made a debut it is. It’s so good that it’s subtle – Oni have perfectly carved themselves a niche of groovy progressive metal that is endlessly relistenable and creative. With razor-tight production, a masterful blend of rhythm and technique and a seemingly endless stash of ideas, this band is poised for success.
Ironshore is available now via Metal Blade.