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Oak: ii

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Even in our 2011 world of post-genre extreme metal—where hard-boundary dark-side subgenres such as black metal and grind are running off and making Rosemary’s babies with electronic ambient music, synth-pop music, classic rock, or whatever—Oak occupies alien territory. The four-piece released a sort of out-of-the-blue record more than two years ago that stood as a wicked Burning Witch tribute, tectonically slow enough that it tested the patience of all but the most ripped metalheads and avant-garde ambient-metal trainspotters. It’s pretty weird, but also pretty identifiably doom, that regionally born subgenre of Black Sabbath-worshipping slow metal churn.

And Oak’s ii is another step out of the mainstream of anything; if the band displayed an impressive tendency to alienate listeners before, this second record sure isn’t a bid for their approval. There are moments of demon roar, and in fine long-form doom form, those downcast guitar chords do indeed ride out way longer than what you’d call churn and into pure sonic negative space. Hell’s torment in zero gravity, perhaps. But Oak is unfolding a narrative on ii that needs more pieces, and here’s where it gets really weird.

The record is only three songs long, which shouldn’t surprise anyone: They’re long. The first pair is a two-parter, “Cowards and Undeserving,” broken in the middle by some conversation in French (maybe) via a field recording. It’s an empty space of sorts, and Oak is all about empty space and odd kinds of metal minimalism where it can take compositional eons to get from one drum hit to another, especially on that first record. Ii doesn’t pull that trick as much, but there’s a different emptiness, and it’s the emptiness of actual quiet. And why not let five or six seconds of just plain quiet elapse in between supremely creepy off-key/broken guitar strums?

More: Oak’s ii resolves. Doom music never really resolves because, well, it’s doom music. It’s creepy and uncertain and hopeless. There’s a bright, classic metal guitar solo at the very end of the aforementioned two-part song that, after 20-odd minutes of slow-motion tension and roar, feels like an ox stepping off your chest. It’s doom metal with redemption. It’s blasphemous, but it’s also way different than some “transcendent” black-metal from Brooklyn, NY. It’s like some sort of sonic redemption, like there’s an angel or at least some crisp sunlight on the other end of whatever dank, goblin-infested forest this particular Oak is growing.

Oak plays with Universal Order of Armageddon at Sonar Jan. 20. For more information visit

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