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Album review: Onhou – Endling

Onhou are a recent addition to the doom scene, having started up in 2016 and releasing their self-titled EP in 2018. They play an incredibly heavy mixture of pure sludge and what can only be described as post-doom i.e. traditional doom metal with post-rock histrionics, which results in oppressive soundscapes littered with funereal atmospheres. ‘Endling’ is their first full-length album, and it’s 16 tonnes of pummelling fury.

With only three songs in just under 40 minutes, Onhou have a lot of space to manoeuvre and stretch their musical legs. Each of these tracks have their own unique character and slow evolution, but still manage to stay within the band’s Eagle Twin-meets-Mogwai playing field. The percussion and crushing bass are high in the mix to provide the sheer weight that floods the speakers, the guitar is abrasive and wet with monolithic distortion, the keys lay in acres of ambience, and the vocals are demonic and packed with personality. On top of all this, the production is excessively heavy yet open enough to allow the quiet, sombre moments the impact they require.

The opening track is Dire and it is relentless in its quest to level everything in its path. At close to 20 minutes in length, the huge wall of sound is delicately draped with a melodic backdrop and never gets boring or allows the listener’s mind to wander. That said, the album as whole is best heard in one solitary sitting and through the magic of headphones; this permits the thundering mass to advance and develop in the ears without distraction. Follow-up March Retreat is sinister and focuses more on the spectral mood than metal riffage (although there’s certainly enough buried in there) and feels like more of a warm-up to the epic finale, Silence. This, of course, is the direct opposite of its name, but the superb and menacing heaviness is expertly balanced with yet more brooding and miserable strains of doom-drenched melancholy, and it leaves you feeling exquisitely unsettled.

For a debut album from a relatively new band, ‘Endling’ is impressive and the work of a group of musicians that have one objective: to crush the audience into sticky paste while creating an atmosphere of never-ending torment, and in this, they have succeeded. It’s not a perfect record in that there could be slightly more deviation from their haunting onslaught, but they have time to hone their sound over future releases. For now, these Dutch doomsters have a handle on all things heavy and woeful, and there’s nothing wrong with that.        

★★★✩✩

Endling is out November 30 via Tartarus Records (tape)Lay Bare Recordings (vinyl) and all digital platforms.

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