This piece originally featured in our first issue, which can be purchased in its redux form here
In modern doom, there’s a lot for metalheads to love, with huge riffs that hit you like a truck being the order of the day for most, but it’s important to note that some bands can’t boast much more than that. “If all a band wants to do is bludgeon people with riffs that’s their choice and it’s fine with me” says Daniel Sargent, guitarist for British doomsters OHHMS (pronounced Ohms, like the measurement of electrical resistance: “One of the Hs is silent, not sure which one”), whose band can be heralded as one of the few innovators in modern doom. “I think we do make music that is a little different from a lot of the more traditional doom or sludge bands out there,” Sargent says, “but it wasn’t really in an effort to stand out and be different.” This unique style, Daniel explains, comes from the five band members’ combined inputs. “Each member contributes ideas and has an opinion on where a song should go. Everyone in the band has different tastes in music and we all chip in our thoughts and ideas to the song and that shows through.”
The quintet’s combined input makes for an interesting creative force, with the band packing bludgeoning riffs and sludgy grooves but also bouts of unhinged experimentation in everything from tech-metal to experimental rock. “I have been in bands before where it was only ever one person who wrote all the music and everyone else’s ideas were only paid lip service at best,” Sargent tells us. “Between the five of us, we all listen to a huge range of music all the way from ‘80s pop through to black metal. If you listen to our new LP The Fool you can hear it all in there. I don’t think I told anyone else in the band but one of my riffs on the LP was inspired by a Run The Jewels song.”
OHHMS’ music also boasts a political edge, but in a less direct sense than the sort of thing you may expect from a punk, thrash or hardcore group. The Fool’s political messages are less specific in nature, and work inside the album’s interesting concept: “I think Paul [Waller, vocalist] is looking for deeper, lasting lyrical themes rather than just taking pot shots at current political demons,” says the guitarist. “There are plenty of other bands for that sort of thing.” You won’t see OHHMS shouting angry messages about current issues – there are grander themes afoot here. “I think we’d rather write songs that can still be related to in 20-years time” he explains. This is reflected in their songs, with lyrics shifting their focus from vegetarianism (‘Rise Of The Herbivore’) and “the bullshit pulled off by big companies messing with our food” (‘Bad Seeds’) to flat earth theory (‘The World’) and getting stoned to death (‘The Lovers’).
Elsewhere, ‘The Hierophant’ takes a more personal approach, but retains OHHMS’ focus on grand motifs, using space rubbish as a metaphor for struggles with depression throughout a song that breaks the twenty-minute mark. “We didn’t set out to write our longest song to date,” Daniel mentions. “It just sort of happened.” Lengthy songs may have become a hallmark of the doom genre, but OHHMS are keen to not hit these tropes just for the sake of it: “If we hadn’t been happy with any of the parts or the structure we would have changed it. We have strict quality control.”
Its songs may have ambitious themes in and of themselves, but they all contribute to The Fool’s overall concept. Named after the narrative’s main character, The Fool tells the story of a fool travelling through a deck of tarot cards to meet the other characters on the cards and hear their stories. To coincide with this, anyone who orders the vinyl release of the record will receive three tarot cards, which act as your own personal tarot reading.
“It was a much longer process than the EPs, it took us about a year to do start to finish,” Sargent says of The Fool’s creation. “I wouldn’t say it was a gruelling process as that implies it wasn’t enjoyable. It was hard work – a lot of late nights writing, recording and mixing, but I enjoyed every moment of it and really looked forward to each session.” Whilst many artists like to record their parts and leave, Sargent thrives in the studio. “I try and be there for as much of it as I can, I love being in the studio environment and watching it all come together.” It’s a testament to the band’s artistic drive, but also shows just how much work goes into their grand concepts.
Since their inception in 2014, the band’s career has been headed on a rapid upward spiral. From tours with Slabdragger and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard to prestigious festival slots and, more recently, being played on Radio One (“How crazy is that!?”), the band have gone from strength to strength. The rapid trajectory of their career has even taken Sargent by surprise: “This week we shot a video for ‘The World’ and I couldn’t shake the feeling of how surreal it was – it felt like we were playing rock star for the day. It seemed like we were doing something that real bands do.” Whether it has hit Daniel or not, OHHMS are a real band, about to drop a real full-length. The debut album follows two strong EPs and will be released on Holy Roar Records, a label Sargent defines as “a home for excellent-quality heavy music.”
The band have even been asked to play and talk to university students, another concept that the guitarist finds bizarre. “That seems crazy to me,” he begins. “Most of the people watching will be far more skilled musicians than I am, what the hell can I tell them other than Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard will steal your beer if you don’t hide it!” As Sargent notes, however, the real test comes at the end of March, when The Fool is released: “I’d like to say that reviewers’ opinions don’t matter to me and that I’m too cool for all that, but in reality it would break my heart if we got a proper slagging off from someone.” OHHMS can rest assured, though, as reviews so far have been positive. “I’m really proud of what we have created,” Sargent admits. “And I want people to love it as much as we do.”
Having recently completed their tour with Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, OHHMS have more lined up in support of The Fool. “Everything we are allowed to announce has been announced” Sargent clarifies, which includes festival appearances, a run of shows with sludge metallers Hark and a short tour with post-metal aficionados Bossk.
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Words: George Parr