Are you a fan of doom and post metal full of large, churning guitars and groove filled drum and bass lines so thick it will leave your brain pounding out of your skull? How about ambient, shoegaze sections driven by some absolutely stellar synth work that will force you into a zombie like trance, causing those passing to wonder if you need medical attention as you stare forward blankly, completely mesmerized by the music you’re hearing? Or maybe you’re super into phenomenal male/female dual vocals leading to one of the most exciting vocal dynamics all year? If your answer to any of these questions was a resounding “Yes!” or even a semi-enthusiastic, apathetic “Yeah Sure”, then prepared to be absolutely floored by the substantial piece of forward thinking heavy metal that is He Whose Ox Is Gored‘s new album, The Camel, The Lion, The Child.
As the first track on the album begins, “Oathbreaker”, it is natural to feel uncomfortable with the direction He Whose Ox Is Gored is taking you. After all, it starts with warm, ambient synth swells that sound much more fitting for a Lush or Anne album then they do for an album by a band who associates themselves with doom metal. However, fear not, as it is not long before He Whose Is Gored delivers on their promise of doom metal in full. About a minute in, churning, groove laden guitar and bass lines kick, burying the synth line deep enough to show that they are now the focus of the song, but also providing just the right amount of space to allow it to still shine through, creating an interesting, captivating contrast between the solid, head bang worthy grooves and the ethereal, dreamy synth lines. The band thrives off this atmosphere, carefully constructing sonic soundscapes that forcefully grab the listener’s attention while also allowing them to get lost in the beautiful background noise.
And under all of this? A drummer who finally breaks free of the classic doom metal drum cliches and shows that he knows how to properly use all of that space left for him. While drummer John O’Connel may never aim to necessarily “wow” the listener with over complicated fills or flashy cymbal tricks before settling back into a boring slow-crash groove, he does demand attention. His drum work on this album is totally and completely refreshing as he provides perfectly melodic (when it comes to drums that means accompanying the music vs. being a more exciting metronome) drum parts that maintain the perfect amount of flare without every becoming annoyingly flashy. Again, O’Connel understands that he has space to work with, and work with it he does, adding just as much as to the beautifully crafted ambient sections as do any of the electric, reverb laden instruments.
However, this review of He Whose Is Gored would be completely meaningless if we did not mention the phenomenal vocal work used in abundance through out this album. Take, for example, the fifth track, “Alpha”. Starting off as a slow burning, primarily ambient piece featuring only drums (which are incredible, again) and a dreamy, space-y synth, it shines a spotlight on the immense vocal talents of vocalist/synth player Lisa Mungo. This peaceful romp through the more space rock/shoegaze side of He Whose Ox Is Gored does not last long, however. A raspy bark soon signifies that once again it is time for the band to show off their more doom-post metal driven side, and a frenzy of noise drenched, ferocious bass/guitar riffs soon follow, completely changing the direction of the track, all while still perfectly complimenting the intro.
It is hard to complain, if that’s even possible, about this record. He Whose Is Gored shows that they’re not content to simply fall into the formulaic, metal-by-the-numbers approach of other bands, nor are they happy with simply fitting in with the rest of their peers currently incorporating shoegaze elements into metal. No, they are their own beast entirely, always making their influences abundantly clear while manipulating them in a way that completely redefines them and brands them as their own. As a result, no track has yet become boring or stale, leading this album to continue to reach a higher and higher play count, and furthering the listener’s enjoyment each time. On The Camel, The Lion, The Child, He Whose Ox Is Gored shows that they are truly a force to be reckoned with and are not a band to be ignored.
He Whose Ox is Gored’s The Camel, The Lion, The Child gets…