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Ossuarium Builds a Sinister “Living Tomb” From Doom and Death Metal

ossuarium

The year 2018 was a great run for 20 Buck Spin, with Scorched, Tomb Mold, and Khemmis (among others) releasing albums to plenty of critical acclaim. That hot streak continues into the new year with Living Tomb, the debut full-length from Portland-based upstarts Ossuarium. As a churning, calculated slab of death and doom metal that seeks to exceed those genre tags, Living Tomb represents the sound of a relatively newer band’s energy operating at a veteran quality level. Of all the album’s strengths, what truly ties it together is how locked-in and confident the band sounds — check out our exclusive full-stream premiere before the album’s official release on Friday.

Starting with the vicious “Blaze of Bodies,” Ossuarium makes it clear to listeners exactly what the band is about: graveyard riffs (murky in atmosphere, clear in execution) and the fast/slow dynamic that is the foundation of the crossover between death and doom metal. Vocalist and guitarist Daniel Kelley rumbles from the depths, recalling a more decrepit John Alman (Winter) or Hooded Menace’s Lasse Pyykko even. The songs across Living Tomb sound cavernous; even when the distortion drops out during “Vomiting Black Death,” the subtle chants in the background matched with drummer Ryan Koger’s impressive fills sound like they’re emanating from a grand mountain hall.

This leads to an absolute gem of a death-groove riff at the halfway mark that will inevitably lead to packed venues headbanging in complete unison.

Working with Greg Wilkinson, one of death metal’s grandmaster engineers, Ossuarium takes the solid if unrefined skeleton they built with their impressive Calcified Trophies of Violence demo (2017) and adds sinews of even more OSDM along with some West Coast sludge. Living Tomb is far from “polished,” even in terms of today’s death metal, but the compositions are focused. Take the Schulinder-esque twin guitar scales halfway through “Corrosive Hallucinations,” for instance, whereby deliberately slowing them down creates a more sinister atmosphere than the more obvious, speedier take. Choices like this are what will help separate Ossuarium from peers.

We also had the chance to chat with Kelley about the inspiration and context surrounding Living Tomb.

Photo credit: Jamie Robillard
Photo credit: Jamie Robillard

Even though Living Tomb is your debut, it has a confidence and tightness that sounds like a band that’s been together much longer. Was this a case of endless rehearsal, or did it just click naturally?

In the year leading up to us recording the record, we were extremely motivated and I think it elevated our musicianship to levels it had yet to go, at least I can say that is true for myself. On top of averaging at least one writing session and one full band rehearsal a week, me and Nate would meet up occasionally just to practice harmonizing in different scales and getting really locked in for our more melodic parts that play an integral role in the album. With that said, we had all felt a really organic chemistry between us from the start, with each member playing a vital role to the sound we try to portray, and I think that shows.

Greg Wilkinson has become somewhat of a go-to guy for recording death metal on the West Coast; what was it like working with him, and what kind of input (if any) did he have on the album’s sound?

I don’t think I can say anything about Greg that hasn’t been said before, but you don’t earn a name like “The Wizard” without being able to pull a couple of tricks out your sleeve. Staying in the studio and recording with Greg for a week was an experience I’ll never forget. He’s truly an awesome guy and a pleasure to work with, and in regards to the way the album sounds, we couldn’t be any happier.

Living Tomb is clearly a death metal album, but it incorporates more varied tones and “moods” on songs like “Writhing in Emptiness” and the closer “End of Life Dreams and Visions Pt. 2.” What other music or bands outside the death/doom genre would you say are influential to Ossuarium?

For me, I found a lot of inspiration in the punk bands I grew up listening to. Bands like Negative Approach, Rudimentary Peni, and Disrupt had such a big influence on the way we write what we do even though it may not be immediately obvious. In addition to Cocteau Twins, King Crimson, and Pink Floyd who can so well cycle between different feelings and moods in one album or song. Ryan is a huge jazz enthusiast which I think rubs off on our sound as well.

Portland has a vibrant heavy music scene, especially over the last decade. Are there any other bands in the city that you feel a kinship with, metal or otherwise?

Portland has a great scene right now that we’re proud to be a part of. Keep an eye out for Autophagy who just put out their debut demo a few months back. Jeff’s band HRNN will be dropping an album shortly, and Ryan’s doom project Troll has their double LP coming out on Shadow Kingdom in just a few months. Ryan also plays in a hardcore band called Retirement who fucking rip.

Living Tomb releases Friday via 20 Buck Spin.

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