AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeö: Ogu Malu – Nulla Rimane

Back in the primordial days of this here blog, we attempted something called “AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeo.” The basic idea was to select a bunch of unsigned bands and give them the collective review treatment to find the most worthy buried gems. It was our humble effort to remind folks that the metal underground is still an important part of the world of metal.

AMG HQ has lots of new faces these days, myself included, and with lots of new faces comes lots of new, indisputably correct opinions. Potentially sensing this brewing of deep thoughts, my comrade in aquatic dominance, Carcharodon, suggested a return to the boot-and-bustle of an olde AMG tradition: the Rodeö. Being the underground trawler that I am, I offered my services to supply this edition’s case study in how to frustrate Steel: Sardinian sludge export Nulla Rimane by Ogu Malu. The sometimes stoner, sometimes stomping, sometimes haunting genre does not pass easily into the green on many of our esteemed writer’s radars, but my (ear)holes always pucker at the thought that maybe, just maybe a new sludge offering could be the one that pulls another body down to the deep end. You won’t find much about these fine folk outside of their small presence on Bandcamp and Facebook, but that’s why we’re here: to leave you enlightened and happily penniless with underground metal knowledge. – Dolphin Whisperer

Cherd: If you had asked me a week ago to draw a map of the Mediterranean Sea, I’d have gotten a fair amount of details right for an American. The Strait of Gibraltar, Greece being all dangly, obviously Italy’s boot. For islands, I’d get Sicily, Crete, and even Malta, although I’d put it in the wrong place. I would NOT have included Sardinia and what’s-its-bucket to the north, despite them being fucking huge as islands go. Somehow, their existence escaped my attention for 44 years. As penance for this oversight, I’ve spent some time with Sardinian band Ogu Malu’s (Evil Eye in the island dialect) 2022 release Nulla Rimane. This is sludge/stoner doom played right down the middle of the style, and although my tolerance for this is higher than many of my counterparts, I find it fairly dull. That’s not to say it’s entirely without merit. The occasional higher register guitar leads playing over the standard sludgy down-tuned doom, especially in the opening title track, let some fresh air into the gloom. Riffs tend to be standard stoner fare, leaning toward the groove end of the spectrum, but standout track, “Il mio decadimento” succeeds mostly by taking a slightly more antagonistic tone. Unfortunately it’s followed by two of the most generic principle stoner riffs you could imagine in “La fine” and “Zero ansia.” These issues could be at least tolerable if there were a dynamic vocalist, but this does not describe Ogu Malu’s lead man Nicola. His uneven, gravely shout works against the riffs, not with them, and when he goes higher into blackened vocals, they come off as, again, generic. So now I have two things for which to apologize to these Italian lads: not knowing their home existed, and this review. 2.0/5.0

Dear Hollow: I understood the assignment, and I knew that Italy’s Ogu Malu was sludge. It sure beat J-gaze, whatever that is.1 And, well, Ogu Malu is definitely sludge. If you’re familiar with the antics of Eyehategod or Down, you know what to expect. Nulla Rimane is swampy, dense, and bluesy, just like what you expect sludge to be. It benefits from its snappy percussion, manic vocals, and crawling bass guitar, and tracks like “Il mio decadimento” and “Zero ansia” sport some creeping passages of pulsing bass and ominous plucking alongside ambient effects that create an air of oppression. Only included in closing passages in a nearly half-hour listen that already feels way too long, these highlights feel too short-lived. If being continuously bludgeoned by a rusty hammer left on a forgotten ferry on the Mississippi River Tiber for thirty minutes while caressed for three sounds fun, then Ogu Malu will be your thing. While creeping menace is a clear winner here, it’s far outweighed by Nulla Rimane’s propensity for da sludgeoning. However you want to take it, it’s definitely sludge, facciamo così. 1.5/5.0

Felagund: Move over Dog Years, because now we have Sludge Minutes; one 60 second dose of sludge is like 7 minutes of any other metal subgenre. Nulla Rimane by Ogu Malu helped inspire this assessment, but all the sins of a single genre cannot be laid at the feet of any one band. Nor can Ogu Maluߵs chops be denied. The titular “Nulla rimane” opens with an engaging riff, audible bass and a hefty dose of atmosphere. Following track “Abisso de pece” starts strong with an off-kilter vibe that immediately grabs your attention. And third track “Il mio decadimento” puts the big bottom at the forefront, kicking the song off with a thick ‘n’ heavy bass onslaught that’s sure to perk your ears up. Ogu Malu can certainly craft a killer intro. The problem is most everything that comes after. Each tune grows tedious after only a few minutes, with the chunky riffs, guttural barks and higher pitched shrieks quickly growing repetitive. Ogu Malu have a tendency to write themselves out of a halfway decent song, opting for a trudging monotony that feels both indulgent and unnecessary. This is especially true of the first and last tracks, bookending Nulla Rimane with long, humdrum tunes that have you checking your watch before realizing that time has very little meaning in the Land of Sludge. That being said, Ogu Malu are talented, and given enough time, may be able to rise above their chosen genre and deliver the de-sludgified goods. Just not here. 1.5/5.0

Thus Spoke: Many turn their noses up at sludge in general, but the genre’s been having a pretty good year so far, at least in my experience. Ogu Malu, on the other hand, do not do much to convince steadfast naysayers. While the genre as a whole often trades on gut-punching heaviness, Nulla Rimane strikes more like a dull, throbbing headache. “Abisso di pece,” “La Fine,” and the title track all over-feature passages of monotonous, flat riffing, and gurgling barks that are evidently meant to be heavy, but are in actuality quite boring. Ogu Malu’s dips into melody—such as the crooning, stonery guitars in “Il Mio Decadimento” and “Zero ansia”—are welcome. The former track also demonstrates a desire to delve into more experimental territories, with an almost proggy feel to its wavering guitars, interspersed with ambience and the knuckle-dragging grimy sludge. The problem is its lack of memorability. No band needs to reinvent the wheel, but if a sludge album doesn’t feel overly heavy it ought to at least be engaging and interesting. Nulla Rimane floats in an uneasy limbo in this respect. It’s neither heavy nor tight enough to justify its lack of ambition. Serviceable if you want something vaguely angry to stick on in the background, but that’s about it. Bad.2

Dolphin Whisperer: Without wasting a minute, Ogu Malu plays all their cards, showcasing a throbbing collection of cascading lead warbles, high gain bass jogs, and absolutely ugly barks from lead vocalist, Nicola. Good sludge, makes its case, often, by cascading these dank timbres against extreme attitudes—anger, frustration, nihilism—but outside of Nicola’s regurgitating caveman to screeching squirrel onslaught, Ogu Malu doesn’t excel at pushing across tones dynamic enough to push and pull us unwaveringly through Nulla Rimane. Their shorter bursts of rough-and-tumble grooves work best—a proper NOLA-inspired swamp riff churns us on “Abisso di pece” or “Il mio decadimento” with a sophisticated Eyehategod energy against guitarist Davide’s jazz-twang bends. However, this success is short-lived as Ogu Maluߵs ideas begin to run over themselves by the closing two tracks. In particular, “Zero ansia” treads the line of variation without alteration far too closely; the subtle inclusion of post-grunge harmonics isn’t enough to carry an ending that’s at least four minutes too long. Considering these island-dwelling Italians have less than a full hour of total output tucked away in their tackle-box, they’ve still got time to learn from their mistakes, but much like making your Nonna’s spaghetti recipe, it may look the same and have all the right ingredients, but it’s just missing that extra special something. 2.5/5.0

Show 2 footnotes

  1. You all will find out soon enough – Dolphin Whisperer.
  2. That’s a 1.5 for those who need a translator.
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