We live in a vat of communication, and British metal band Ohhms’ newest album Exist constitutes the product of that at times unholy mixture. More than a saying or a nice thought, the methods and processes we as humans employ in our daily lives don’t end with us. While maintaining our own self-interest is important to an extent — other members of the animal kingdom are alive too. We’re not all that exists.
This complicated situation informed the direction Exist takes. Thematically, the record weaves through a story of reckoning with the degrading realities of most of the food industry, which Ohhms have tackled before but never to this extent. On a base practical level, the record’s opening track stands at more than 22 minutes long, and musically, that’s not where the towering ambition ceases. Every note of the record contributes to a sonically expansive presentation that calculatedly draws the listener into the story being told and pushes them along with it.
Vocalist Paul Waller explains that ultimately, his aims rest with telling the story at hand in all its magnanimity and maintaining his own voice in the process.
“For me the core is communication — communication with my mates at band practice and communication with the audience through our music,” he says. “I feel uncomfortable in groups of people, strangers and family alike. This band gives me a voice I didn’t have before it.”
“To pardon the pun, the fact it simply exists is reward enough for me,” the vocalist adds. “If it gains success and people love it then that’s awesome and we will grow accordingly. If if fails to gain acceptance amongst its listeners then that’s tough shit for us really. I know that I am utterly satisfied with the results. I have a passion in me and Exist is part of that passion, from the lyrics, to the way in which I articulate them with my voice. I accomplished all I set out to in the creation of the album. I can’t ask for anymore than that. I love it.”
To get to that triumphant point as a band, Waller explains that their personal ambitions — musical or otherwise — drove them along. After all, recognizing the other animal interests involved in life on this planet doesn’t negate our own. Cooperation can be key.
Waller says that his own allegiance to animal rights (which culminated in veganism) began some five years ago when he and his wife got a dog and were struck with the nature of the animal’s life.
“My wife and I saved up and bought a pug from a breeder — something I wouldn’t dream of doing now — but the moment I met Mr. Puggles it changed my whole outlook on life,” he explains. “I finished eating what meat was in the fridge and never bought it again — my wife too. It just hit me, like, BOOM! Utterly mad when you think about it. But there it was, sentience. I could see it instantly in his eyes. It’s the same with a cow, a pig, a fox — whatever. It all became very clear to me.”
Musically, the band members are attached to their particular expansive, doomy/sludgy style as individuals and their music itself could be understood to reflect this since it’s truly so unique.
“We have never pushed ourselves into musical directions we ourselves don’t want to be involved with,” Waller says. “We know the music we write is not an easy sell, but It’s simply a natural development that takes place in the practice room. We write a lot of stuff sure, but a lot of it gets rejected even before we all lay our parts down. We just know what we like.”
Their careful control of and attachment to their craft extends down to Exist‘s album art, which depicts a somberly caged animal that Waller says turned out “perfect, even more striking than what I had hoped for.”
Considering that animals remain caged — and none of Exist’s other focuses have faded either — Ohhms’ music will continue to have a place.
Photo via Jake Owens
Listen to the Holy Roar Records release Exist below via Bandcamp