Of the various Italian stoner rock bands I’ve come across who follow a more traditional approach to the genre (acts like El-Thule, Black Rainbow and Void Generator) Treviso’s OJM might be the most characteristically individual. By that I mean that within a genre of classic and desert rock influence, they still manage to come out sounding distinct in their musical personality. Volcano is their 4th studio full-length since forming in 1997, and as it unites the band with the accomplished production of Rancho de la Luna’s Dave Catching (Queens Of The Stone Age, earthlings?, The Giraffes, etc.), it hones a refined and polished approach to the genre of stone that, rather than aping the likes of Kyuss or Fu Manchu, modernizes and refreshes the approach.
They called the album Volcano in honor of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull that wrought so much havoc on Northern Europe in 2010 Spring, cancelling thousands of flights all around the world, including that which would have brought Dave Catching to work with OJM in the flesh. Volcano was recorded at Red House Studio in Senigallia, and the four-piece wound up collaborating with Catching via Skype, presumably passing files back and forth via some fascinating and futuristic transfer protocol. A credit to both parties, then, that the album sounds as good as it does. Led by its founders, drummer Max Ear and vocalist David Martin, OJM’s brand of rock knocks heads with classic garage thickened and updated, offering catchy Monster Magnet-style hard rockness on "I’ll be Long" and "Cocksucker" with guitarist/backing vocalist Andrew Pozzy (who used to play bass) turning down the fuzz as compared to a song like "Rainbow" to bring out a different feel.
As Volcano is 35 minutes long, and "Oceans Hearts" accounts for about 20 percent of the album, it’s worth looking at the track specifically. It’s 3 solid minutes longer than "Cocksucker" at 7:13 and undoubtedly OJM’s most fleshed out track. Martin, who proves a versatile and capable singer throughout offers a passionate delivery tuned rightly to the music’s gradual build. Bassist Stefano Paschi, who started off Volcano on the Atomic Bitchwax-esque instrumental opening intro "Welcome" with gloriously thick fuzzality offers probably the best bassline of the record as he takes charge of the song’s final couple minutes, and where the rest of Volcano seems streamlined and pared down to its essential components (Paschi also contributing organ to "Wolf" and several of the other tracks), "Oceans Hearts" has more breathing room and a more laid back approach, making it an effective change of mood. All the more so because, contrary to what one might expect, it doesn’t close the album, or even the first half, instead placed right after an opening salvo of 3 tracks all under 3 minutes long. The back half of the album, kicking off with the aforementioned "I’ll Be Long" and "Cocksucker" speeds up to punker pace with "Disorder" before the more psychedelic "Escort" takes hold. "Escort" probably wouldn’t have worked anywhere but in its spot nestled just before "2012" closes Volcano, but it’s well done nonetheless. Martin’s vocals step back into a cave of reverb and the tempo takes a step down to a grooving middle flow while Paschi again offers a killer bass line and Pozzy gives a freewheeling solo that fades the song out. It’s a (again) well-placed lead-in for "2012" which takes the energy down even further, to a song that’s still brightly toned, but maybe a little moodier. Still orange, but a little deeper in the shade, if you want to put a color to it. With "Oceans Hearts" eating up so much of the focus early in Volcano, the closing duo offers appropriate decrescendo, once more displaying OJM’s maturity in songwriting and album construction.
OJM - Volcano
- Artist: OJMTitle: VolcanoFormat: CDLabel: GO DOWN RECORDS
Release date: September 2010