Another in an ongoing series of reviews of recent releases by Lehigh Valley bands.
In February 1959, nine hikers in the Dyatlov Pass of the northern Ural Mountains were found dead, having abandoned their tent and walked barefoot into frigid temperatures and heavy snow. Several of the hikers had serious internal injuries; one was missing her tongue.
The causes of their deaths have never been fully explained.
New evidence suggests, though, that they may have stumbled into a time machine and received a vicious pummeling by OVLO, an Allentown alternative-metal band whose new album, Malcontent, is capped off by a galloping growlfest called “The Dyatlov Pass Incident.”
(Malcontent was released about three weeks ago; it can be streamed free on Bandcamp here. Apparently it’s available for purchase on another site, though it wasn’t working when I tried it. If you want it, you’ll find it.)
The members of OVLO cite Tool, Godsmack and Metallica as influences. And, to my ears, they stay fairly true to those influences, cranking out aggressive, high-gain modern metal with all the familiar trappings.
Singer Jamey Holben has three voices — a raw animal growl; a melodic croon; and a slightly cynical spoken-voice style that suggests a carnival barker who’s tired of selling the two-headed mermaid to gullible passers-by.
I personally prefer the latter two voices. (I seem to be becoming a broken record on the subject of scream vocals, don’t I?)
I admit, though, that I like a metal growl more than a punk scream. The metal growl seems more natural and less pretentious; more ass-kicking and less angsty; more likely to inflict pain and less likely to whine about receiving it.
Meanwhile, the band fills the songs — there are 10 of them — with outsized, slashing mid-tempo riffs and double-bass-drum thumps.
No single riff is quite epic enough to stick in my head and insist on being replayed again and again. (OK, maybe the machine-gun sections of “Ocean of Mountains” make it there.)
Still, they add up to an album that leaves a powerful impression and deserves a listen if you’re into the style.
These guys have been playing together for a while now — their first self-released EP came out in 2006 — and they come across as a band that has its act together, has worked through its exploring and experimenting phase, and knows what it wants to sound like.
I don’t know metal well enough to know whether OVLO has a truly distinctive voice and vision that set them apart from other bands. (I suspect they don’t, which is not an insult. Truly distinctive voices and visions are hard to come by in any genre.)
I’d still recommend Malcontent to serious metalheads, as well as casual fans who need some high-volume energy to help them get started in the morning or finish that last round of reps at the gym.
I’m not sure I’d recommend bringing it along on a remote winter hiking trip, though…