Australian death metal quintet Hadal Maw have caused some stirrings with their 2014 debut Senium which managed to reach those of us living far away from Australia. They declared their presence in an already burgeoning metal scene with a very ambitious and meticulous album that combined influences from various acts across the board including The Ocean, Ulcerate and Gojira. The band’s follow up record Olm sees the light of day two-and-a-half years later and it is the first album featuring new vocalist Sam Dillon. Olm packs so much intensity in its very comfortable forty five minute time span and an atmosphere that quite effortlessly envelops the listener with its pulsating transitions and terrific musicianship.
The brooding intro “Leviathan” gets the album going with a decent short-lived build up that creates a natural starting point for “Affluenza”. This is a mid-tempo track that’s loaded with some ungodly screams and an intensity that comes from the guitar tones instead of the traditional, high speed-approach. This is very much a common thread throughout Olm. The album is quite heavy all over but it relies on how each instrument presents itself rather than a merciless flurry of dizzying riffs and blast beats. This approach hints towards an Ulcerate influence which is quite evident on “The Olm”. The sharp and bright cymbals efficiently cut through the dense chugs as the vocals go from screams to growls with relative comfort.
Another defining trait of this album is the absence of a real sense of structure to the songs. “Witch Doctor”, for example, comes with ceaseless tempo shift while the fervent drum patterns keep on pushing it forward, only for the end to come abruptly, bringing a sense of unease with the surprising incompleteness of it. “False King” and “Failed Harvest” boast a lot of varied and expansive drumming, which have a lingering Decapitated influence, while the guitars maintain a grippingly dark atmosphere and sharp abrasive tones with no interest in structure whatsoever. The last cut “Circus of Flesh” continues this structureless pattern but it doesn’t provide some dramatic conclusion to this album which could have taken it to a higher level.
However, the album’s finest cut has to be “Germinate”. It’s the only one to feature a proper guitar solo and it comes without the heaviness which shows a flexible, more experimental side to Hadal Maw’s approach. Again the drums form the foundation with an ethereally-delicate touch which is followed by a build-up as the solo comes to an end and then rounds it all off with a burst of blasting. There’s definitely a lot on Olm to pick at, analyze and enjoy which is always a mark of great music. This album definitely deserves a few spins because its richness and complexity demand it. It is also one of several modern death metal albums that seem to favor atmosphere and overall feel instead of speed and technicality which is bound to perplex some and elate others. But aside from all that, Olm is a brilliantly executed album by an exciting young band that seems to have found its feet. Looks like the future may be bright for Hadal Maw.