OSM – Plagued by Doubts EP


France produces quality prog metal bands in the same way Aston Martin produces sports cars. They’re abundant enough to be noticed, pleasing enough to draw admiration, and scarce enough to be valued. Poitiers four-piece, OSM (Overstrange Mood), ooze confidence and – like Ne Obliviscaris – enjoy the prospect of bringing experimentation into the realm of technical metal. Now on their second EP following 2019’s Which Way?, they return with two new members and a thirty-six minute record that’s strong enough to pass for an album. This is what you want Devin Townsend to sound like on his next release.

Progressive metal operates best in a multi-coloured universe where the pastels are as prominent as the extremes of black and white. The opening title track leans towards the former spectrum for its shade of melody with enchanting keyboard droplets and clean guitar arpeggios that prepare the way for a mystical storytelling voice. Singer, Z-Mood, croons as if watching his alternative ‘self’ sleeping under the mysterious mechanics of a phantom dream weaver. Listen to his mighty roar as he tries to break the calm with an invitation for the guitars and drums to come crashing in like a group of squaddies falling through the door of a public house. You can hear the symmetry of crunchy guitar shapes among a hazy melancholia of Katatonia textures. Their fellow Frenchmen in Klone do something similar on their latest album, but the weight here is louder yet more intangible.

OSM are a paradox. They aim for luscious melodies and serene moments of calm, yet they intensify the heavier dynamics with vicious spasms of cosmic death metal. ‘Stuck in a Wrong Place’ captures the demoralisation of our modern era with its threats of violence sutured only by the stitches of a jaded cynicism that will one day crumble. Be under no illusions – when this band play death metal, they do it in the spirit of Gorguts. The frantic posturing leading up to the three-minute mark is what you get when you merge Edge of Sanity with OSM’s fellow label mates, Scarred. Then it retreats like a predator satiated by its prey until the next meal. Slow piano contemplations and ambient guitar effects inject a clear mind where there is often the noise of daily life. It’s a good place to insert a quiet falsetto before they ramp things up again with a ferocious spasm of death metal brutality.

Of course, OSM expect you to be patient. Their raison d’être is to enchant and convince you that it’s possible to float above the chaos of your urban existence. ‘Why Always More?’ attacks the age-old anxiety that pervasive materialism is the driving motivation of modern society. The band tease you with the outlines of the main riff by using an extended intro of ritualistic tom drum patterns and non-committal guitars drowned in phaser effects. They never do anything predictable. You expect a crunchy ceremony of Gojira-esque rhythms, but they step back and use camouflage to increase the potency of the bass and drum groove. The seven-minute instrumental, ‘Drown By Myself’, is a stunning piece of high-register guitar effects doubled up with low-end distortion and heavy bass incursions. 

What is it that keeps the wall of sound intact behind the weight of the muscular guitar patterns? You’ll ask this question on the scything audio assault of ‘Abyssal…’ as your brain tries to count the time signatures in the intro. A strong breeze flutters through the aggressive metal eco-system, like a pungent woodland scent fusing through your nostrils. Concentration levels need to be high if you’re to find the groove in this multi-layered spectrum of sound. But that’s part of the excitement. You’ll understand what makes this record so enthralling when you hear the chugging guitars at the end of ‘…Loudness’ as they sleepwalk to their climax as if captivated by a dream. The music here is haunting yet intoxicating. Z-Mood’s expressive tenor voice feeds off the ethereal distortion of the guitars. It’s a crystallising moment for him to lament, “If only I could enjoy this time/ If only I could erase myself…”

OSM’s undoubted aim is to push themselves into the spotlight as one of France’s emerging prog metal artists. They should not be plagued by doubts on the evidence of this EP. These boys are real contenders, and their debut album will be one to watch out for over the next couple of years.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 28/04/2023

Record Label: Klonosphere Records

Standout tracks: Stuck in a Wrong Place; …Loudness

Suggested Further Listening: Ne Obliviscaris – Urn (2017), Scarred – Scarred (2021), Katatonia – Sky Void of Scars (2023)