This is perhaps one of the most unique Track by Tracks I have done in the 5 years that this blog existed. I will be reviewing an album made by a group of friends of mine. The Ominous made up of three of my school friends: Kieran, Liam (who I interviewed in my last post), Peter, and their bassist Ted (whom I have not met as of yet), have self-recorded and self-produced their debut album, Once Bitten.
This is the first time I reviewed their stuff, though if you go back to my earliest posts in 2012, I write about a band called The Dispute, which was one of the predecessor bands of what would become The Ominous. The band formed in 2015, merging a number of projects together. Alt Rock band The Dispute, which is officially on indefinite hiatus, Aftershock; a Dispute side project, and punk outfit Sodium Frogs. The Ominous have been consistently performing at gigs in bars, pubs, and other venues for years separately, and continue to do so in their current form today.
While these guys are my friends, I will be reviewing this album as I have done with many others, regardless of my personal connection to the group. And finally, if you are new to the blog, then please follow it by signing up for email updates. I have plenty more music reviews and other interesting posts which you can enjoy at your own leisure.
TRACK ONE: The Right to Die
The opening track begins with a melodic acoustic guitar, which really gets you in a relaxed mood and ready for what is about to come, with some of the more heavier pieces throughout the album. The acoustic guitar kindly stepping aside for the aggressive drum and guitar mix, and the gravelly vocals of the lead singer, Kieran Martin. It is an ideal opening track for this album, starting slow and bringing you in with a gut punch of noise. Many bands often just go straight for the gut punch of sound, and that can work, but for the heavy, minimalist and down and dirty sound that is prevalent, I believe you need a small amount of preparation to get into it.
TRACK TWO: Live Another Day
Track Two continues the forward momentum and energy of the preceding track and is almost like an anthem for rebellion, and telling the haters to fudge off, that you will go on, despite setback or defeat. This song is a consistent one, whereby there is not much in the way of changing tempo, or any changes in sound. It’s a simple song that does what it needs to do and does make you want to continue listening. And it works well. Its a good follow up to the first track and a great anthem style song.
TRACK THREE: Wake Me Up Before You Die
Finishing the ‘Death Trilogy’ of songs that begins this album, this song is a nice final movement of the trio of songs which opens the album. All these songs are a good introduction to the sound of the band, and each tries to do something different. I would call this song a ‘vocal’ song, as it is the vocals which are the main focus of this particular song, whereas guitar was the main focus of the first track, and the second track was a perfect marriage of the two elements. While all three songs are good, I would probably have removed this track, as it can feel a little repetitive hearing three songs with similar names/themes/sounds, but that doesn’t make it bad.
TRACK FOUR: Sroned
Sroned is the next song, and it is perhaps one of the standouts of this album. I cannot describe in words how much I love this song. The chord progression reminds me of Shine on you crazy diamond, but in a minor chord, with elements of Linkin Park, Metallica, and Rammstein in there. It is an almost menacing song, with those chords, and the underlying bass which creates a sound that would be good enough for a horror movie, similar to Bring your daughter…to the slaughter, or He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask). Sroned is bloody awesome and its aggression really evokes that horror movie idea. I absolutely love it. The song also has a sweet little ending, almost like a short hidden track, which ties it up neatly.
TRACK FIVE: Ragnarok
Much like the second track; Live Another Day, Ragnarok is an anthem of sorts, which really keep up that pumped up sound. I get shades of The Beautiful People in this song, and I can hear the band’s influences coming out in their work. Some can pull that off, while others can be accused or ripping off. Ragnarok pulls it off. This is another one of those songs which have different sounds in it which make it a less typical, straight-laced rock song, with the use of an organ sound. I do like this, as it does give the music a bit more individuality.
TRACK SIX- 8130
The shortest piece on the album, and the most punk rock out of the album. Much like I said in my review of the preceding track, it’s all very good when you make the songs individual and make them stand out. The insane tempo, the aggressive drums, and the occasional vocal shouting from Kieran make this a high octane palate cleanser, and a good showing off of the drumming capability of Peter Wills. One should always make sure that each band member gets their moment on the album, and this is the drum’s moment. If you read my interview on my last post, this is a song that Liam said would be almost impossible to play. I agree. It’s such a fast song, that it would be very challenging to do, and very exhausting to do as well.
TRACK SEVEN- Long Live Fury
Long Live Fury is another consistent song and seems quite a bit slower after listening to 8130. It also is notable for Kieran’s lowest notes on the album, an almost growling vocal, and definitely his angriest performance on the album. I’d call it a passionate song, given the lyrics. At least the ones I can make out. This style of music is not one for those who like listening to crystal clear lyrics, and it can be hard for one to make out the words sometimes. It’s worth mentioning here, because I feel that this song works when the lyrics are not as understood, as you do hear the anger in the voice better, and it evokes the emotion better when you don’t quite hear what the singer is saying.
TRACK EIGHT & NINE- Safer Than The Sea & The March
The sound of the sea lulls us into the eighth track of this album, and it’s another anthem style song, and is once again, one of the standouts of the album. The descending guitar chords really do it for me. I particularly like the lyrics, and I like the narrative that it has, which evokes songs such as Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and other classic sea-based depictions in art. But you don’t really appreciate the song on its own, I feel. You need to listen to both this song and the next one in order to get the full story. They simply don’t work individually.
Track nine It feels like this is a crossover of Metallica and Iron Maiden, given the song’s lyrics and the singing of Kieran. This is an example of wearing your inspirations on your sleeve and it perhaps working less effectively, as it does feel like the song is trying to be Metallica, rather than evoke it. But, I’d argue that while weak on its own, it is stronger when listened to with the previous track. Both Tracks 8 and 9 tell one story, from separate viewpoints, which makes sense. I spoke to Liam about this, and he had this to say:
‘It certainly offers two perspectives on war; one from a displaced refugee’s point of view, and one from a soldier unwillingly thrust into war’
The previous song describes the anxieties of the narrator as a refugee, while this song shows a similar narrator as a nervous soldier. With that in mind, it works to both song’s overall benefit. Like I mentioned above, you don’t really appreciate one without the other. Lyrics from track 8 include:
To feel safe in our beds
While bombers fly overhead
We overhear their cries
As the warbirds start to fly
It’s very clever and affects my enjoyment of the song. You can listen to them apart, though really track nine works as a solo piece, and even then, I feel you must listen to them together.
TRACK TEN- Twice As Shy
The final track, the magnum opus, and the song I would consider to be the title track of the album, at least the de facto one. Once Bitten, Twice Shy is a phrase used to describe how one may take caution in their action, and this song is an excellent closer for this album. It is the longest track, it is probably the most accessible song for new listeners, and has some of the best guitar work on the entire album. This truly is a way the group can close a concert or a gig because it really does bring things to a natural conclusion. Halfway through, the song becomes primarily instrumental, and it is a guitar crafted work of genius, building up the tension, and building up to a massive crescendo, which brings the album to its end with a satisfying piece of the drum, bass, and guitar. Truly an epic album closer.
Does the album run long in places? Yes, it does. Are some songs repetitive? In some respects, they can be. Ultimately though, for a self-made debut album, it is a belter. There are definitely things in Once Bitten I don’t like, but most of it I do like, despite having doubts about enjoying this genre of music. I would describe Once Bitten as Lo-Fi, Dirty, Gritty, Minimal-Frills heavy rock.
It is certainly a powerful sound, thanks to the guitar and drums. Kieran’s vocals add to the grittiness of the album, lacking an orthodox singing style, using a very guttural, roaring voice. Having known Kieran for years, from singing My Ding-A-Ling in Music class in Year 9, or Bob Dylan in Year 10, it was initially weird to hear him singing like this, but he pulls it off fairly well. Liam and Peter, who I’ve heard perform for years with various covers and original pieces, are as good as I remember, and maybe better. And, of course, Ted’s bass work, while sometimes buried under the intensity of the other three members, adds deeper, richer tones to the music that would otherwise be lacking without it.
For the band’s first ever full album, it is really good, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to try something new. Once Bitten is a good album, which is a showcase of the years of work each member has put in so far, and ultimately, a base and a bar that I am sure the group will continue to raise over the next few years.