Olde Growth - Owl (EP) (2013)


We've all heard someone say that less is more. Contradictory? Yes. Cliche? Absolutely. But as the size of metal bands has grown, has the quality been able to justify it? Bands like Slipknot employee upwards of nine members. But I would challenge both casual and dedicated listeners alike to conclude that three drummers are better than one, or that you need three guitarists to play anything in their catalog. I digress. For every band that has grown beyond their need, you have those who have stayed small, and sound big. Boston, Massachusetts based Olde Growth have no need to go beyond their original and constant two members; they get plenty out of a small package. However, this isn't the same as other two piece acts we've seen. This one, believe it or not, is simply bass and drums. And while bands like Horse Latitudes have tried the "guitar free" zone to little musical coherence, these two have taken the formula to places we didn't expect. And much like the owl that graces the cover of their new EP, the mix of sounds on the four tracks you get here might have you saying, "bass and drums? O RLY?"

There is no mistaking the strong bass sound on the opening to "Brother Of The Moon," but the way string master Stephen manipulates that sound is what becomes interesting. Forgoing the guitar altogether, he occupies both registers with his bass, playing rhythm and lead in impressive harmony. The result is a psychedelic rock anthem, his voice crying and trembling over it all. It seems bizarre to call a track like this smooth; it isn't going to woo a woman to your bed. But it flows nicely, hitting all the key points in what seems like a blink of an eye. A far more driving affair, "Warrior Child," reinforces all of the established tones, but with a focus on the contrast between the melodic and shouted vocal lines. Drummer Ryan keeps himself plenty busy in the meantime, adding in a flurry of rolls and fills whenever the opportunity presents itself. But you've only just begun here, with "Tears Of Blood" emerging as one of the most nauseatingly catchy tracks of the year thus far. You've got a great mix of old and new school here, combining the best of times passed, and yet to come. Hazy in delivery, thanks to the stripped down recording, and a fuzzy in distortion, this is one to repeat. And while the same goes for "Edge Of The Sea," it has a large set of shoes to fill. The grooves are more precise here, both instrumentally and vocally, with the bass work bordering on ludicrous. It is the big, screaming finish that will stand out in your mind.

Without reading a bio, or a one sheet press release, you could easily be fooled into thinking this was a four piece band, with one or more guitarists, bassist, drummer, and vocalist. And by no means would you look stupid for thinking it. What Olde Growth have done is maximize their talents, and recorded an EP that is, actually, far bigger than the pieces. On the surface that might not sound like an achievement, really. But in the current "bigger is better" landscape of music and society, it says a lot that they have somehow gotten the same result with fewer moving parts. Is that all that makes them worth hearing? Absolutely not. There is a real attention to melody, harmony, and structure on the EP that makes it as pleasing to the ear as any psychedelic inspired metal album you'll find this year. They've bridged the gap between past, present and future in a very organic, logical way. And they didn't need eleven drummers, six keyboardists or nine backup singers to do it. No guitars, no problem.

8.5/10

Bandcamp - http://oldegrowth.bandcamp.com/
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/oldegrowth