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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Album Review - Ossimoro: Deus

I have to be honest, I’ve been listening to Ossimoro’s Deus for about two weeks now and I’m still struggling to classify their sound. When I listen to most bands for the first time, I can immediately think “they sound like X” or “I hear a little bit of Y”, but these guys just didn’t jump out at me as sounding like anything. At first, I figured the language barrier may be partly to blame for my inability to place their sound. You see, Ossimoro hails from Rome, Italy and their lyrics are sung entirely in Italian. However, as I continued to listen and absorb this fine slab of doom rock, I realized that what I was actually hearing and the reason for my “blank slate” so to speak, was this band's originality.

I suppose the best way to begin would be to say that I absolutely dig this record. There seems to be a classic heavy metal vibe going on here, yet I feel like there’s an element of prog blended in along with it…imagine Rush playing Black Sabbath covers…or maybe it’s the other way around. And while it’s difficult to be sure since the lyrics are all in Italian, Deus feels an awful lot like a concept album. There’s a quote from the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant printed in Italian on the inner sleeve of the album which translates to “the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me”. A little research into Kant (Wikipedia) tells me that he was known for philosophizing on the mystery of a higher power given that there is no irrefutable evidence for or against the notion. This sort of paradox seems to be exactly what Ossimoro are interested in exploring, because the name of the band is Italian for “oxymoron” which means contradictory expression, and “Deus” is Italian for God…but what the hell do I know? Let’s get to the music.

The album starts off with a brief intro that features an indecipherable, distorted voice and sounds like it did when you were a kid and you played a record backwards to see if there were any hidden “satanic” messages…um did I just show my age? The creepiness of the intro gives way to “Deus Ex Machina”, a track that starts off with an excellent drum fill courtesy of Fabrizio Ferrante that is joined first by a heavier-than-all-hell guitar riff from Federico Venditti and then a sludgy bass line from Paolo Recchia. Once all the instrumental ingredients are combined, the groove becomes irresistible and it’ll have your head bobbing in no time. With a retro-70’s style reminiscent of Witchcraft’s Magnus Pelander, vocalist Francesco Fornara is the last of Ossimoro to join the fray. Right around the two minute mark of “Deus Ex Machina”, when the singer unleashes a laugh that sounds downright sinister, you just know you’re in for a wickedly good time with this album.

Deus continues with “Splende Il Fuoco” which blends sludgy riffs with over the top vocals, reminding me a little of Glenn Hughes’ work with Sabbath/Iommi. This one gets a little eerie during the latter half of the song when Fornara begins to speak/chant in Italian prior to Venditti letting loose a downright blistering guitar solo. The album flows nicely as “Sierra” continues the trend of crushingly heavy riffing combined with the band’s gut rattling rhythm section. Ossimoro slow things down briefly on the intro to “Assassino” before the song collapses into a trance-like dirge reminiscent of Alice in Chains with its intricate, textural heaviness. “Sotto Il Sole”, the album’s centerpiece, starts off with a nice little bass line from Recchia that is again built upon slowly until the whole ensemble just plows over the top of you with pure doom…slow and low…that is the tempo.

“Il Sole a Mezzanotte” sounds kind of like Witchcraft, just without the folksy undertones…love the guitar solo on this one! The song is a bit slower than the rest of the album, yet no less heavy, and at this point I’m beginning to think the Italian language actually enhances this style of music, as it seems to add a certain level of mystique to the proceedings. On “Il Culto”, Ossimoro pick up the pace once again, this time with a galloping rhythm and a breakdown in the middle that has just a hint of Maynard James Keenan and Tool. “Ceneri” is the final track and it lives up to the rest of Deus with its solid, doom riff and powerful, old school vocals. The song brings the album full circle as it comes to an end with that same strange voice we heard in the intro.

I realize I’ve thrown out a few comparisons throughout the course of this review, but honestly folks, Ossimoro have a sound that is all their own. As I said at the beginning, Deus is a solid slab of doom with more than a slight nod to some of the genre’s timeless artists of yesteryear. I suggest that you not be intimidated by the Italian lyrics or the obscure, philosophical message, and instead crank this baby up and enjoy a different take on a classic style. Confucius say…this is some good shit!

Track Listing:

01 Intro
02 Deus Ex Machina
03 Splende Il Fuoco
04 Sierra
05 Assassino
06 Sotto Il Sole
07 Il Sole A Mezzanotte
08 Il Culto
09 Ceneri

Band Members:

Federico Venditi - Guitar
Francesco Fornara - Vocals
Fabrizio Ferrante - Drums
Paolo Recchia - Bass

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