Reviewing very good albums is tricky because you don’t just want to say “this album is very good.” Conversely, you don’t have what any critique you make to unintentionally leave readers with the impression that the very good album isn’t very good at all. The other thing about very good albums is that they’re usually rich in things to talk about, and if you can just nail the tone you’ll be able to tease out the important implications of a band releasing something so brilliant.
So let me start by saying; Olm is very good. Really, very good. Don’t let anything else in this review distract you from the fact that if HEAVY gave scores, this was would an easy 9, and potentially a 9.5.
The two main points to make about this album is that it’s creepy as hell, and it’s definitively Hadal Maw.
What makes the latter point so ripe for discussion (or at least makes me think it is), is that before this release, Hadal Maw was producing competent if not generic tech metal. It was good but only had vague hints towards uniqueness. What they’ve managed to do this time is release an album that is so definitively “Hadal Maw,” but they’ve managed to do so without a frame of reference; there are no previous albums or established genres for them to craft such a noticeable sound from, and yet every song fits perfectly next to one another. It’s the musical equivalent of a comedian “finding their voice,” in that no other band could create these songs even if they tried.
The other point, the album’s creepiness, is partly why it stands out. It’s just so… considered. From start to finish the entire record sounds like the chase through the house in Silence Of The Lambs. Even the quicker songs, tempo-wise, have a measured and restrained vibe, calculating and sinister like all those serial killers you’ve never heard of because they’ve never been caught.
Musically, I can’t remember the last time I heard a band blend so many influences and genres together without sounding like a Mr Bungle pastiche. Hadal Maw takes everything from Cannibal Corpse, King Crimson, KoRn, Djent and black metal, among a few others, and blend it into a delicious smoothie I fucking demand you call Djeath Metal. Or don’t, that’s fine. But this has blast beats, nu-metal grooves, extended clean jams, and half a million different guitar effects, and it’s all very well done.
The only thing I’d like more of are memorable hooks. The chorus in Failed Harvest stands out, and the more I listen, the more I remember, but it would’ve been cool to have a few more of “those” riffs, the hummable ones. A lot of this album requires constant focus, and while it rewards you if you do, it can punish you with the sound of musical fogginess if you don’t. I’d love a few more explosions of standard, dickhead heaviness.
Also of note is Sam’s performance as a vocalist; without nary a clean note sung, he still manages to inject a surprising amount of variety into his performance. He’d be forgiven for just giving it the ol’ “death growl/high screech” combo, but he seems to have tried his best to add oddness and variety, without it overshadowing the rest of the band in that obnoxious “you’re not Patton so stop trying” way vocalists can do. For my money, he nails it.
2016 was a spectacular year for heavy music (and not much else), but if Olm is any indication, 2017 is set to be just as good.
Artist: Hadal Maw
Record Label: EVP Recordings
Release Date: 03/02/17
Words by Mitch Alexander