Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Oshiego - Woe to the Conquered (2011)

While Woe to the Conquered suffers in a few places from a choice of trite, uninteresting grooves, there's no question that these young Singaporeans bring a lot of violence and variation to the mediums of death and thrash that ultimately proves entertaining. Not in a very subtle sense, but with both fists before them beating everything that rises up against in opposition. Oshiego have essentially penned themselves into a hybrid of violent late 80s/early 90s thrash circa Demolition Hammer, Exhorder, or Sepultura and a slightly more modernized palette of death metal influences including but not limited to US forebears (Deicide, Malevolent Creation) or the brutal European legends Grave and Morgoth; yet they also manage to incorporate a regimen of driving, Eastern melodies.

Vocals here range from the Deicide textured guttural/snarl combo to the more contemporary brand of near porcine squealing and even a slightly sustained growl of the John Tardy variety where it suits the phrasing. The riffs tend towards the lower end of the fretboard, lavished in this meaty distorted crunch which definitely recalls a bit of that Morrisound tone, but even though I had some hesitation towards the production, they create a tense balance against the melodic clarity of the lead sequences. Drummer Fauzt is well versed in the blasting, grooves and double bass, having played in Impiety and a few more obscure acts in the years leading up to Oshiego. But perhaps the most surprising was the bassist, Ridhuan Syah, who is really given the chance to shine through hammering passages like the late bridge of "In Death, My Dominion" where he drives the simpler guitar chugging, or the intro to "The Absolute" where he creates an oddly funky foundation leading to the concrete grooves and exotic, glorious melody that ensue.

I enjoyed the brutal, almost surgical muted sequences in cuts like "Blood Omen" and "The Scion ov Balance", especially with the bass fluttering out beneath them, and I definitely think the band works well at tension created by the various tempos here. However, not all the transitions feel seamless, and many of the groove segments are patterned in rather predictable progressions that rarely seem to build to an incredibly memorable climax. That said, this shit must go off quite well at gigs when the crowd begins smashing limbs into one another. Oshiego might not have the practiced intensity of countrymen Impiety or Wormrot, or the more exotic cultural aesthetics implemented by Rudra, but they've definitely got a street level solidarity about the composition which pairs interestingly against the more arcane, sepulchral lyrics , and the level of instrumental proficiency here is higher that that produced by your average urban thrash core. Also the cover of Grave's "Into the Grave" is pretty spot on, a fitting and bloody fresh tribute. A decent album for when you just want to ball your fist and crush something (or someone).

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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