Of Feather and Bone - March 9th, 2018 - (8/10)
Published on March 6, 2018
Leonardo di Vinci once declared, in a moment of waxing philosophical, that simplicity is ultimate in terms of sophistication. Now, heshers, for the past three or so decades, have split into various camps when it comes to how much other stuff they wanna cram into their music. Do they want extreme amounts of feedback and mixolydian buggery? Or do they want the basic guitar-bass-drums formula to tone it down to make room for more shamisen or hurdy-gurdy solos or riffs? Maybe they need more synth textures to give their live performances a mysterious air to hide the fact that all that smoke is really coming from the drummer’s bong rips? Whatever musicians decide to do, it usually comes down to, ‘ok, how much shit do we wanna stuff into every song?’
Reasonable enough. Sometimes musicians wanna get weird and throw in every bit of musical influence they’ve picked up over the years. That’s totally their decision, and I’m sure there’s a dedicated bunch of like-minded metalheads who’d love to hear all your Russian classical soloing over those blast beats. But sometimes, a band just wants to pummel you, break you, make you wild-eyed to the point where you have no choice but to bang your head and jump headfirst into a greasy mosh pit. And there ain’t a goddamn thing wrong with that. Sometimes, to strip it all down to the bone and just turn that shit past eleven is the way to go, and when it works, it kills.
Behold, puny listener, Of Feather and Bone. This death metal trio outta Colorado in the U.S. haven’t been around for very long but seem to have established their sound and vibe pretty well. It’s that good ol’ occult and gore mix that seems to be the big thing in the underground these days; marrying the two into a foul hybrid that’s all about being not quite goregrind levels of squeamish, but certainly enough to make your Catholic mother be more concerned than usual, because she just wants you to be okay. OFAB have only one previous full-length, ‘Embrace the Wretched Flesh,’ alongside some EPs and splits, all of which seem to have been received pretty strongly. This time around, it’s their sophomore album, ‘Bestial Hymns of Perversion.’ And boy does it kill!!
Right out of the gate, OFAB bring the pain and Satanic hellfire needed to make an album like this click. There’s no fucking around; the strength of this album is all in the songwriting. Sure, the presentation does its job, but as with any album, its the music that makes it fly and fall. And ‘Bestial Hymns of Perversion’ flies like a harpy out for vengeance. The riffwork is solid all around, bashing those tritones like they’ve been doing it since birth, the vocals are swathed in that phlegmy growl that can bring out anyone’s inner devil, and the drums bring the blast beats to such a degree that they perpetuate the entire album to darkness. OFAB bring a host of different genres into their death metal melting pot, from sludge to grind, all blackened to a blood-soaked crisp and brought before the alter of extremity for the slaughter. The bare bones brutality of this record is all about driving the listener to madness, opting less for a heady mindfuck and more for a hammer to the senses. No noodling, no spacey textures, no obscure scales, no fanciness whatsoever. This is nastiness cooked black.
So what’s keeping this album from being hailed as a masterpiece of modern underground metal? Well, a few things, but nothing so egregious that your average death metal devotee will take issue with. Firstly, the production here, while following in the trend of lo-fi tones and drums recording in a room with seemingly a single microphone, the total muddiness of the album is doesn’t play well through less-than-stellar speakers, which should be no issue for anyone who has an above-average sound system. But it does slightly limit the overall quality of the album; the tones are muddled to a point of slight difficulty when it comes to discerning them. The drums and vocals, on the other hand, are clear and solid; the drums are crisp and poke holes in the mix that, fortunately, don’t kill the overall sound. The vocals? Man, this is death metal, be happy you can feel the vocalist’s phlegm splatter all over you as the growls stand front and centre. My only real qualm here are the guitars. They’re nasty, sure, but the solidly written riffs are buried under so much fuzz and distortion that you can only appreciate them if the drums would stop and the vocalist would take a water break, goddammit. But, the experienced ear of the hardened hesher can easily overlook this and be able to listen beyond the noise and hear the songwriting taking place here.
OFAB is death metal. Sure, there’s slight elements of other stuff, but we can agree this is still death metal at the end of the day. While the production may make this not the best place to start for anyone wanting to check underground metal’s more brutal side, it’ll absolutely satisfy the bloodlust of the hardened and experienced.