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Tooms – The Orb Offers Massive Signals

The Orb Offers Massive Signals
by Ian Yeara at 24 August 2020, 9:11 PM

So this week I got TOOMS from Ireland, yet another psychedelic proggy type of band except this time the focus is on Doom and Sludge rather than Death Metal. I love Doom Metal, but when it comes to critical analysis Doom and Sludge are a little challenging. The key to enjoying this style of music is in the details, a friend of mind likes to call this "brushstroke theory". If you have a painting with really only one layer of paint for each depiction it's going to be very simple and not the most engaging thing. When you take the time to layer the paint and use brushstrokes on top of brushstrokes you get a level of detail that might not even be immediately noticable, but when you get close and you examine the smaller facets of it, you realize how much effort and time must have gone into it. The best Doom Metal does this and the further a band delves into Psychedelia as this band has done, you get a really dense sound, which is what I personally like from this genre.

Getting to the music, this album is somewhat boring to me, personally. I really like the moments where it strips everything back and you just get the low echoey bass notes and acoustic guitar plucking notes with a ton of reverb on. The secret to this kind of stuff really seems to be make it as wet as possible in production and layer the crap out of the reverb. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but there are moments when I can really hear elements of the production and it's just amazing to me how you can still appreciated most things in the mix despite the layers of sound and effects. So, kudos to the band on that point, this album sounds great, the mix is really good and everything seems well balanced.

Now I'd like to talk about the songs individually, but it's kind of difficult. I've listened to this album several times and most of it just blends together. This is definitely an album made to be listened to all at once, and even if I'm not 100% on board with what they're doing the whole time, I respect the effort and detail they put into this album.

The first song that actually stood out to me was "Stampede" actually. It's got some of the heaviest and most aggressive riffs on the album and rhythmically they do some interesting things. In the first half of the song you've got these blast beats, intersected with hemiola in the guitars. This song probably has the most variety of tempos and riffs on the whole album too, you go from Death Metal one moment, maybe a little Black Metal even, and then in the back half we find ourselves back in that sludgy doom sound, lots of grit and crunch used to great effect.

"One Ton Soup" is some fun too, probably more because I'm just laughing at the name the whole time I'm listening, I mean come on there's a perfect Seinfeld episode in that name. Getting back on topic, this song is a nice length at 7:04, and it has more of a clear structure than most of the other songs. There's almost something that resembles a hook. This album is very sparse on anything even remotely like a hook, but the first half has a repeated riff and vocal line that I rather liked. The outro is pretty neat too with a phat sludge riff getting slower and slower until the acoustic guitar and bass fade out the song into "Krokadil Den", the shortest and fastest song on the album. It's concise and the riffs are used in some interesting ways. This is what I want from a proggy sludge doom band, the kind of sound I'm really looking for.

I hope I've made clear that I think these guys are doing a great job in their own niche and they should be proud of what they've created. Nothing and no one can take that accomplishment away from them. My complaints about this album are not of the quality of sound as much as the quality of songwriting and lyricism. Considering the production quality, I'm surprised that "Tooms" hasn't been around for very long, but I'm not surprised I haven't heard of them. The songwriting is chaotic and messy, there's not much for people to latch onto.

The songs I like the best like "Stampede" are a little more straight forward riff fests and the rest of it is at its best when it let's the softer, spookier moments shine through. What this album does best is atmosphere, I just don't really care for how they construct their songs. There is a certain amount of tension and release, but a lot of the time is sounds like they're just kind of messing around rather than building towards something.

This is going to sound like an odd comparison, but I feel like this type of music is the metal equivalent of "Bitches Brew", it's spacy, out there, and most of the instruments are kind of doing their own thing. The lyrics and vocals come across to me as a little immature, you know it's dark and edgy, but there's no emotional impact, it's all shock and no awe. In a word I would call this unfocused, there's lots of interesting ideas on this album that don't really get explored, and then some of the softer moments rather than letting the acoustic guitar and bass take over we get these ludicrous spoken narrations. This is where I say the music feels a little immature, lots of ideas, but no real point and no focus.

One paragraph I'm praising the band, the next I'm bashing the album, so let me be explicitly clear on this: the sound design, production and musicianship are all fantastic and as I said before the band should be proud of their debut LP. However, the songwriting is lacking, especially if this is a concept album. The album doesn't build towards anything and the finale in "Retrograde/Ode to an Orb" is disappointing to put it mildly. "One Ton Soup" actually had me really digging it and I was excited to see how they ended the album and it ends with a whimper.

The last song is the longest one and it just kind of drags along to the end with seemingly little enthusiasm or any signs that we're reaching the end of a journey. In my opinion, that's what an album is supposed to be, a journey and just like the hero's journey, there are guidelines and steps to creating a more dramatic narrative. With music it's a little more esoteric than that, but TOOMS fails to deliver a climax or giving some closure to the album, especially considering the track is a 12 minute epic right at the end of the album. This does none of those things; in fact, I would say "Ode to an Orb" was the most boring song on the album.

Man this album is a big ol mixed bag for me. I like "stoner doom, psychadelic doom" whatever you want to call it, but the lowest hanging fruit often falls into the trap of trying to fit everything and the kitchen sink into their music and then just make it sound "psychadelic" by amping up the reverb and making the bass sound like a buzz saw. This album does all of those things and it sounds good, but there's no focus and there's no journey, just slogging through the sludge like a Fromsoft swamp area. Hey, there's a good metaphor for this album, it reminds me of Blighttown, gods do I hate that area, but I appreciate the atmosphere.

Songwriting: 3
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 3
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

1. Lamentations
2. Mantra at Dawn
3. Megalobong
4. Zipperface
5. Stampede
6. Oumuamua
7. One Ton Soup
8. Krokadil Den
9. Attila the Pin
10. Retrograde / Ode to an Orb
Anto “Cheese-Head” Donnellan – Bass
Alex “Shannon Chains” Hölzinger – Guitar & Vocal
Kieran “Gracious K” Grace – Drums & Percussion
Chris Quigley – synth on "Megalobong" & "One Ton Soup", Fender Rhodes on "Stampede", synth and additional guitars on "Retrograde / Ode to an Orb"
Diarmuid O Sé – Vocals on "Attila the Pun" & "Stampede"
Pádraig O’Donoghue – Violin on "Mantra at Dawn"
Maria Larkin – Vocals on "Retrograde / Ode to an Orb"
Oisin Hölzinger – Trumpets on "Lamentations"
Alex Hölzinger – Orbital sander on "Retrograde / Ode to an Orb", engineering and recording on "Lamentations"
Anto Donnellan – additional guitar on "Retrograde / Ode to an Orb"
Kieran Grace – vocals on "Lamentations"
Record Label: Cursed Monk Records


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