Poland, musically a land of extremity, be it ‘Hate’ filled, church burning black death or absolute unforgiving grinding carnage. When it comes to doom and certainly that which is of the funeral orientated style it probably is not a country you would first think of. Oktor who contain two ex members of the fondly remembered April Ethereal and one of Eternal Tear are here to prove an exception to that rule with their debut album via Solitude Productions. It looks like the act have been around for a decade before leading up to this but they have released an EP, a split with our own The River and Quercus as well as a compilation prior to this.
We are led in by some classical Chopin inspired mellow piano in the form of intro piece ‘Another’ and indeed the band use this trick to prelude most of their songs here. From there the full heavy weight proves a complete contrast as ‘Conscious Somatoform Paradise’ one of three hefty and epic pieces comes rumbling in. There’s some interesting almost gothic guitar textures with leaden drum work and then it settles into a slow ponderous groove. When the vocals from Piotr join in as expected they are craggy, weathered and hoary and it’s time to settle down and see where this 12 minute number is going to take us. It’s not all oppressive and there is light as well as shade with some acoustic moments amidst the violence. Spoken word parts add to this along with some clean croons along with a chugging guitar literally biting in over the top. There’s quite a lot to keep you occupied and this is far from one dimensional funeral doom. It is however miserable and deadbeat as the track bruises onwards with some ghostly parts orated through what sounds like an old radio speaker. The bellows that lead the vocals are particularly impressive and it is almost a relief when the track downs tools and allows you to grab a breath on the next piano sonata.
I have to check the sleeve notes on Mental Paralysis as the mellow clean vocals sound a lot like Neige from Alcest although it is not him. More classicism in the form of strings make this a very mellow affair at first and it has you drifting off before everything hones in and gives you a sound wallop waking you up. Nothing is hurried over this 17 minute monster. Apparently the band have appeared on a tribute to Skepticism before and stylistically there is a fair bit of that certainly with the angry vocals and pace. Then again on playing this style don’t all roads eventually lead back to Skepticism? The addition of strings, piano and those clean fragrant vocals do however show that Oktor are not going to play things quite by the book and they certainly have an interesting take on things. Distempered roars and slow pounding beats take up the mainframe ‘Hemiparesis of the Soul’ (it has to be said these track titles are very Esoteric sounding but this release has no Greg Chandler involvement) but there are some breaks with some bass heavy noodling and more clean harmonics taking away partly from the more stifling feel of it all. It’s all jagged riffs and piercing screams that chaotically lead this one to its death knell though no doubt very much in line with themes on the album and artwork. Thankfully you are allowed to unwind a little as last number ‘Undone’ may have had things falling apart but is an absolutely gorgeous way to go out as the band perform a fragile clean and very unexpected ballad. Another great find and solid release from the ever reliable label.
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)