Californian trio Bog Oak are a breath of fresh air for many reasons. For every band jumping on the occult doom bandwagon at the moment, very few manage to achieve it with a shred of originality; but Bog Oak’s blackened doom approach is refreshing not only for the music but also the philosophical approach. Rather than walk the well-trodden path of Laveyan Satanism they instead explore Suhrawardi’s philosophy of illumination and Al-Ghazali’s ‘The Alchemy of Happiness’.
Striking hard and fast out of the box on ‘The Science of the Afterlife’, we are immediately presented with a deep down, gnarly dirty guitar and bass sound, but it is Julie Seymour’s raw vocal that sets this apart from similar bands. Her delivery has an Abbath style rasp to it which trades off well against the sludgy riffs, yet it is the trade-off between this and the cleanly delivered moments that not only showcase her range but also the compositional quality of the tracks themselves. The rumbling dark nature of ‘Time Drift of Seasons’ is a strong case in point with nods toward both the violence of Hellhammer and the folk doom style of Alunah. There is a feeling of oneness with nature that comes with this that is hard to explain, but at the very least it shows that they can invoke a sense of emotional being that is hard to conjure up out of thin air. The stand out track is ‘A Sea Without Shore’ which is in many respects is the most ‘conventional’ doom style track on here with its deliberate pace and largely clean vocal, yet it is hugely atmospheric.
This debut EP is a very strong statement of intent. Mixing sludge, black metal and psychadelica is a very unusual experimental cocktail, but Bog Oak carry it off effortlessly and they are easily one of the most exciting doom influenced bands I’ve heard in a year where there has been a surfeit of doom bands. I look forward to the debut album with interest. If you are a true doom aficionado, maybe this is not for you, but for those of you who like your gloom with a twist you should definitely check this out.
(8/10 Lee Kimber)