Saturday 27 May 2023


The stories of HP Lovecraft are probably just as influential on today's heavy underground as Black Sabbath's first six albums, Lovecraft's twisted tales of killer cats, monstrous sea creatures and mysterious cities and islands have inspired songs, albums and even band names. Having died in 1937 Lovecraft was of course oblivious to the influence his writings would later have on popular culture but it is interesting to note that scholar Joseph Norman once argued that there were similarities between the music described in Lovecraft's fiction and the aesthetics and atmosphere of metal music. Either way Lovecraft's writing continues to inspire lyrics and music right up to the present day and no more so than the subject of this review. 
OceanlordJason Ker (bass); Peter Willmott (guitar/vocals) and Jon May (drums), came together in Melbourne, Australia in 2019 over a shared love of doom. in 2020 the band tested the waters with a two song demo that garnered good responses from all the right quarters, unfortunately Covid then reared its ugly head and any plans the band had for moving forward were scuppered by the ensuing lockdown, well not exactly all plans because with time on his hands Willmott set about building his own home studio. It was in this studio that the band convened, after lockdown, to track the songs for their debut album "Kingdom Cold" (Magnetic Eye Records) a stunning mix of doom, psych and post-metal crafted around Lovecraftian themes of horror and the occult.

 Opening song "Kingdom" opens with a low deeply distorted bass motif over which an off centred guitar lick wails and drones, the drums then join in and the band take off on the sedate doomic groove that forms the songs backbone and lays the foundation for the songs vocals. If you are not familiar with Oceanlord then these vocals might come as somewhat of a surprise, firstly because they contain almost no traces of the usual bellowed gruffness, Ozzy-like nasality or demonic harshness that is often associated with doom and secondly because they possess a tone more akin to folk-rock than they do doom, clean clear and world-weary they add an air of fragile vulnerability to Oceanlord's music. "2340" follows, a song documenting a doomed voyage that finds Willmott singing of "children" who "watch their fathers drown" while "the Captain waves farewell" against a groove anchored down by Ker's thick fuzzy bass lines and May's mix of tight and loose percussion, the dynamic only shifting up a gear in the songs chorus where Willmott woefully laments of "going down again" and "never coming home" while crunching out treacle thick power chords and swirling dank solos. Next up is "Siren" a restrained,. almost gentle, ode to those shimmering maidens of legend who are fabled to call sailors to their deaths with their song, Willmott's fragile almost resigned vocal tones adding extra gravitas to the songs lyrical content. Dissonance and distortion introduce next track "Isle of the Dead" followed by a devastatingly delicious dank doom groove over which Willmott acts as our travel guide, describing in gory detail the islands many macabre wonders. This is followed by the bluesy, yes we did say bluesy, "So Cold" an enthralling little ditty with many interesting twists and turns that in its last quarter constantly feels like its building towards a climax but never quite does. Final track "Come Home", is a much more expansive tome than those that have gone before, here the musicians find the space to stretch out a little and just enjoy being in the groove, especially Willmott whose heavily effected guitar solo, that takes the song to the fade, is a mouth-wateringly sublime mix of crunchiness and finesse.

Oceanlord's "Kingdom Cold" is the type of  album you get when musicians from different musical backgrounds get together to make music inspired by a shared love of  H.P. Lovecraft and doom, a sound not typical of the doom genre but yet still recognisable as being of that genre. The band have in the past described their sound as "stoner gloom rock" and in fairness it does possess a certain gloominess but it is a gloom you will want to embrace and in turn be embraced by, which when you think about it is a concept Lovecraft would probably wholeheartedly approve of.
Check it out ....    

© 2023 Frazer Jones

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