Oni – “Ironshore” (Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records)
According to Japanese myths, an Oni is a shape shifting demon able to take on many forms as it spreads its malevolence. Mastermind of vocalist Jake Oni, his namesake band is equally made up of many guises, but thankfully all of them good if equally as fearsome! Labelled as ‘progressive’, there are certainly plenty of those influences in there with lots of futuristic staccato beats and melodies but equally also Gojira like djent and a definite heavy groove influenced by the likes of Lamb of God, both in the chundering rhythm but also Oni’s own hoarse vocals mixed with soulful harmonies that owe more than a nod to Between The Buried And Me. Then there’s the xylo-synth. A what I hear you cry?! Well, its essentially a xylophone played through midi with two mallets in each hand – and before you imagine one of those Oni demons doing it – let me just say that these guys are probably the only metal band using this as their lead solo instrument but thanks to Johnny D’s shredding work, it truly sounds inhuman! That’s not to say that he’s the only star, as Jake Oni has truly assembled a talented crew from Joe Greulich’s intense but matching technical drum work, to the dual virtuosic guitars of Martin Andres and Brandon White, who ably mix it up with Johnny D’s wizardry through tearing solos but elsewhere, soothing spiraling melodies. Certainly complex, but thanks to producer Josh Wilbur (Lamb Of God, Gojira) its anything but a cacophony, with all the instruments skillfully complementing one another and plenty of opportunities to shine individually without vying for auditory attention. As a result, “Ironshore”, while being definitely exciting to listen to, is also a pleasurable experience with an intelligent utilization of energy and ambience that is very inspirational across songs like the ultra heavy ‘The Only Cure’ – with guest vocals from Randy Blythe – or the searing opener ‘Barn Burner‘ and to amalgamate it all it all, the closer of ‘Coast To Coast’. A truly impressive debut that ushers in a new element in prog metal history.