He Whose Ox Is Gored
(Fainting Room Collective)
He Whose Ox Is Gored has an enigmatic sound that manages to gratify and surprise listeners. Pick up just about any recording of theirs and you will hear a number of heavy and noisy styles seamlessly intertwined. On one hand, they can have an atmospheric patience that may remind some of Mouth of the Architect or Russian Circles. On the other, there is an element of energy and groove similar to early sludge and stoner metal bands like 16 or even Kyuss. On a third hand, there are elements of shoegaze and ambient sprinkled in. Many of these qualities were introduced on early works such as the Rumors 7”. The OX then demonstrated this creative flexibility to great effect on their debut album, The Camel, The Lion, The Child, released in October 2015.
The OX’s new 7” EP, Vulse//Static, shows the band continuing the exploration of this sound. As part of the Fainting Room Collective Triple Six Series and only two tracks long, Vulse//Static is a brief but fairly effective EP. I say fairly because it does not quite hit the dynamic range of their earlier EPs and album. That said, the band still manages to pack a lot into just two songs, and this EP is ultimately meant to be just a slice of the pie. “Vulse,” opens the EP with a tumultuous collision of guitar riffs and dark ambient dissonance. Haunting vocals hover just above a bed of driving drum and bass. The track maintains a steady energy that is simultaneously ferocious and contemplative. From there, “Static” takes the energy down a notch, representing the OX’s ability to attain a meditative state amidst the chaos. The guitar is still prominent, but seems to drive the direction of the song a little bit less than on previous tracks. One could see these two tracks as an embodiment of two of the distinct textures that He Whose Ox Is Gored explores. There is perilous darkness, but also a sense of wonder.
Vulse//Static offers a brief snapshot of what He Whose Ox Is Gored is capable of. Though it doesn’t quite reflect the range that the band has shown on previous recordings, it is a solid introduction to their sound for any newcomers (whom I would greatly encourage to also give The Camel, The Lion, The Child a spin). For those who are already fans of the OX, this EP is reassuring in that the band is maintaining course. In any case, this is a great Record Store Day pick-up. (Dev Addison Bhat)