You know how some babies are born with a full head of hair, looking like grumpy old people right off the bat? Their eerily adult visage forces you to question whether the womb from which they escaped is some sort of black hole bending time to mature this squishy creature faster than you expected. Well, some bands are like that too. One such band is South Carolina’s Olkoth, who, with naught but a 14-minute demo under their arm, deliver a blistering, lightening-quick, furry-chested werewolf baby of a debut. They have lyrical themes around the occult, and I demand to know which powerful demon mothered them to this level of maturity for a first full-length after only a handful of years playing together, seeing as their current lineup only got together in 2020.
At The Eye Of Chaos is absolutely deserving of investment from Everlasting Spew, the diabolical artwork of Girardi and the vital time of your ears. It may be a debut full-length, but there is absolutely nothing green or amateurish about the eight tracks that will pipe hot molten magma into your floppy ears and cook your synapses into a tizzy. Olkoth is above all else a death metal band focused on speed and a hefty dose of technicality without making it the primary selling point. There is, however, an undercurrent of black metal that provides a nice flow to what would otherwise be a very choppy style of death metal. “Incendiary Prayer” shows this off nicely around the two-minute mark. A whirling tremolo riff pattern flows into a chopping staccato rhythm before transitioning again into a subtle bit of fretboard gymnastics. Those gymnastics make for a dynamic riff without making your eyes bug out of your head at some wizardry.
The band calls out Nile as an influence and that’s easy to hear without getting a sense the band is trying to BE Nile. While there are little audio atmospheric touches here and there on the album, like the opening to “Thousand Faced Moon,” the band’s songwriting is hyper-focused on speeds that a professional dominatrix could never get a whip to spin. If you’re thinking Nile, think “Cast Down The Heretic” levels of aggression and when you consider that’s one of the storied Egyptologists’ best songs, that’s certainly not a bad thing.
Technical chopping brutality is more than powerful enough all on its own when it appears. “The Resurrectionist” opens like the falling of a pyramid’s worth of stones on your head. The song avalanches rhythmic battering upon rhythmic battering while the vocals primarily reside in the lower register summoning their strength from the bowels. That song still manages to counterpoint with some brightness with one of the more striking guitar leads offered on the album, even though there aren’t a ton of them. The dueling vocals of bassist Alex Rush and guitarist Zach Jeter add another potent layer to that chopping rhythm that gives every track a violent sense of urgency.
The only tempo that Olkoth seems to know how to play at is red-line speed. For some listeners that will be exhausting, but for the rest of us it will imbue you with the power of a thousand burning souls to get through even your most boring TPS-report-level admin tasks on a gloomy afternoon. A big part of that successful blaze is session drummer Krzysztof Klingbein, whom the band needs to work on hiring full-time immediately. I have no choice but to assume the band played a perpetual game of Hot Foot in order to keep his legs moving at a pace where they can only appear as a blur to the human eye. On top of that, his splashy cymbal work adds a lot of flavor to this corpse-riddled stew. The way he rides the hi-hat behind a ludicrous double bass about halfway through “Thousand Faced Moon” is such a delightful balance to how he pops cymbals all across the kit from ear-to-ear at the end of album opener “Alhazred.” The one minor complaint I have about the album relates to the production of the drums. That top-notch cymbal work is often a touch low in the mix, while the clickiness of the kicks has them cut through the mix a bit more than is needed.
In the end, if you like your death metal to sound like the band was being chased around by somebody with a flamethrower and their only means of escape was to play faster, Olkoth is the bearded baby on the block for you.
>artwork by paolo girardi
>music by Olkoth
just wanted to add some balance to the comments. Olkoth brings the riffs, this is fun and fast and ferocious!