(Blacklight Media/Metal Blade)
Do you miss when Between the Buried and Me was weird and heavy as Hell? Do you miss bands like The Human Abstract and Last Chance to Reason? Do you want to make prog metalcore great again (sorry all I have left is terrible puns to mute the existential sadness)? Instead of fleeing to Canada, how about we just check in on some rising Canucks? ONI are all these things and more throughout their phenomenal debut album, Ironshore. Their sound recalls the neo-classical heaviness of late-career The Human Abstract, with the synthetic freak-outs of Last Chance to Reason and, of course, BTBAM, as well as some operatic vocals and punk-y energy from another great Canadian band, Protest the Hero. It’s very important to note that, despite all these sonic touchtones, ONI have already launched themselves into a style that feels (mostly) their own.
This isn’t a band resting on their laurels of their obvious (and obviously awesome) influences. This isn’t a nostalgia-themed roadtrip through prog metalcore’s past (“‘Member Digital Veil?” “I ‘member!”); it’s a journey of how to make compelling, complicated music really freaking heavy. Vocalist Jake Oni (hence the name) has a clean voice that may turn off some listeners, but it’s somewhere between Travis Richter (The Human Abstract) and Rody Walker (Protest the Hero), with all their requisite melodramatic tendencies. Having the ever-talented Brandon White on guitar makes for some intricate, dizzying rhythmic riffing, while the lead-work and soloing are a stand out. However, the real winner here is xylosynth player Johnny D. For the most part, it sounds like sci-fi synthwork, but having shredding guitarists and an excellent synth player leads to some truly excellent throwback prog moments. ONI are rhythmic masters first and foremost, but the melodic shredding, while tasteful, is especially noteworthy.
The album shows some minor growing pains, but nothing that really kills what is otherwise an excellent, top-flight prog metalcore album. First “The Only Cure” takes a Randy Blythe guest spot a bit too much to heart, as the song’s latent Lamb of God influence drags the tune down a bit. ONI are best as a prog band first, so while the chugging is often used well in service of the song, it feels a bit too much here. Second, Ironshore doesn’t end on its best note, with “Coast to Coast” feeling a bit too traditionally prog for its own good; it seems like it was written as a closer, trying to serve as a coda, when it just feels unnecessary. That said, the other seven tracks on here really are auditory gold for fans of progressive metalcore. ONI are certainly a band to watch and have all the talent and songwriting ability to make their future sophomore album a potential classic.