DoomooD by Ottone PesanteRelease date: September 18, 2020
Label: Aural Music
Browsing through the submissions that we receive at Echoes & Dust can lead to all sorts of interesting discoveries. It also highlights the inherent weirdness and limits of genre labels. What is “Alt-skronk country?” Who amongst us enters a record store and dives straight into a box labelled “americana-jazz-folk?” And what in blazes is “brassmetal?” I can’t answer the first two, because I made them up (feel free to interpret them and make music under those labels at your leisure, just credit me with the genre label when you become the Next Big Thing). But I can tell you what “brassmetal” is: it’s great.
It’s a genre pioneered, and (to my knowledge) solely populated, by Italian trio Ottone Pesante. Forget guitars: this instrumental trio use trumpet, trombone, tuba, flugelhorn, and drums to make music that replicates the sonic palette of heavy metal on instruments not normally known for it. This excites me for two reasons: a) I’m a former trombonist who grew up playing jazz and classical music as an incredibly cool kid who knew what would impress people and help me make friends, and b) I love weird stuff like this.
Normally brass instruments donate their rich, warm tones to the bass harmonies of classical symphonies – like Mozart’s Horn Concerto #4 in E Flat or they play a cool solo in the works of jazz artists like Louis Armstrong or Dizzy Gillespie. Here, all of that is subverted. The instruments of Francesco Bucci (trombone and tuba) and Paolo Raineri (trumpet and flugelhorn) resonate ominously. The pulsing notes of ‘Tentacles’ build slowly over Beppe Mondini’s tight, controlled drumming while guest vocalist Sara of jazz-metal band Messa fame brings her haunting vocals to the fore. It’s as beautiful as it is haunting and deeply unsettling. Across the whole album, the instruments all come together in perfect disharmony. By that I mean that minor keys rule the compositions here, and the instruments play sharpened or flattened notes to really hammer home the dissonant mood. On ‘Tentacles’, they even manage to replicate the sound of saxophones which, for a brass instrument, is no mean feat. In laymen’s terms, everything sounds dark, evil, and gloomy, and the instruments occasionally play notes that don’t quite sound like they’re in the right key, so everything feels even more ominous and doom-laden than it is.
In terms of guitar-metal, YOB and Bell Witch most closely represent the sonic template on which Ottone Pesante are drawing here. In stark contrast to their previous two albums, DoomooD is all about the ominous crawling doom. From the black and red artwork with its unnervingly serpentine brass instrument, the album presents listeners with the darkly seductive siren song of the abyss and the crushing death that awaits you in its clutches. Perfect for fans of those bands, in other words. This also serves to highlight the differences between this album and its predecessors. Where Apocalips had a much more electrified pace and hyperactive playing style, the tempo across DoomooD is generally much slower, the mood much more sombre. Sometimes they pick up the pace, like on ‘Serpentine Serpentone’, but to me, the album feels like YOB and Bell Witch had a lovechild raised solely by brass instrument players.
Which, frankly, is excellent. ‘Grave’ uses its slow tempo and some industrial-esque synth effects to really evoke the yawning of the abyss. Elsewhere, ‘Strombacea’ is given a harsh, dissonant edge with guttural howls that conjure up an angry elder god rising from some deep, dark plane of existence where mortals fear to tread. The distorted synth effects that coil around moody album closer ‘End Will Come When Will Ring The Black Bells’ as it fades away leave the listener feeling desperate, and desperately in need of a palate cleanser.
In sum, it perfectly captures the zeitgeist of 2020. It’s a deeply uncomfortable listen, even with guest vocals providing moments of beauty: brass instruments don’t normally sound like this. But DoomooD does exactly what it says on the tin. It evokes a doom mood. What could be more topical? Uncomfortable as it is to experience, the music on this album is also somewhat cathartic. It’s like watching a heavy black cloud drift past the sun: you know that things are going to be dark, but the warm and pleasant sunlight will soon come back.
It will come back, right?