Portugal’s Oak deliver an absolutely massive foray into unsettling mania on their debut full-length album Lone, available this December via Transcending Obscurity Records. Although the group is new, they sound like they’re drawing from a wealth of experience on these pretty expertly crafted songs. They mix the minutes-long, snaking, thin rhythms of doom metal with the suffocating quicksand feel of the most torrential blast beat attacks from black and death metal. The unifying, crushing breadth of this music makes it feel like stumbling into the dangerous wasteland depicted on the captivating cover art, which is a painting by Paolo Girardi.
On the album’s first track, which is called simply “Sculptures” and clocks in at more than sixteen minutes, the band only get to a more physically intense portion after some six minutes of performance, but the components flow together quite powerfully. The strong songwriting means that there’s never a moment that feels like it’s just been left hanging. The confidence with which the band methodically build their ultimately subtly captivating melodies around their more direct portions defines this piece as a quite intriguing exploration of limits. For minutes on end, there’s not a single word spoken, but that melody and the dynamics included in this huge, slowly sweeping atmospheric doom metal feel like they’re telling a story all the same. As exemplified when the second track’s atmospheric portion slowly devolves into crushing chaos, it’s a tale of collapse and getting crushed under emotional weight that methodically pushes the life out of you.
Ultimately, thanks also in part to the music’s gritty tones, Lone feels (strangely enough) very grounded. It’s a launchpad for questioning the limits of our very sensibilities. On that first track alone, as that melody gets swamped by the more brutal portions, the magnificence of the whole thing lends the process personally accessible, metaphysical implications.
Musically, the consistent thinness means you really get a chance to appreciate those melodies that the band really are building. Even when they get wildly heavy, like towards the end of “Sculptures” as that track crescendos, there’s still an abundantly clear beat of that melodic heart. It’s crushed and struggling, but it’s there. The subtly creeping atmosphere gives the album’s questioning, illuminating experience that much more of an accessible feel, even when there are pretty much minutes overall with just the slow electric guitar strums. It’s a powerful experience to behold.