Sound of Origin – The All Seeing Eye Review

At a gig I went to in 2018, Obscura was the headline act. Unfortunately, lead singer Steffen Kummerer had lost his passport and was therefore unable to cross the border with the band. Without him, Obsura nearly cancelled its set. The remaining members decided instead to adopt the singers from the co-touring bands to perform in Kummerer’s stead. It turned out to be a fascinating view into how a lead singer can influence a band’s songs. Stevie Boiser from Inferi was all loose-limbed menace and cackle, whereas Simon Girard from Beyond Creation was focused, disciplined and technical. These traits imprinted themselves onto the material, so much so that it often felt like the audience was listening to Obscura playing backup for the singers, rather than the other way round. What does this strange anecdote have to do with English band, Sound of Origin, you may be wondering? Well, despite The All Seeing Eye being Sound of Origin’s debut, the band recently changed singers, with Joel Bulsara replacing John Bussey, to join the existing line-up of Joe ‘Zeph’ Wilczynski (guitar), Jax Townend (bass) and Chris ‘Foz’ Foster (drums). The All Seeing Eye follows 2017’s EP Seeds of the Past, a fairly standard slab of desert stoner doom. This full-length is a very different beast, and while we can never know for sure, I’d bet my entire AMG salary it’s Bulsara’s effect.

The All Seeing Eye is a dense, heavy slab of bluesy, stoner doom, mixed with some sludge, which pays clear homage to its influences (Black SabbathKyuss), without being an obvious rip-off. Where it differs from its EP predecessor is the delightfully nasty edge that Bulsara’s vocals provide. Not only do his vocals tip Sound of Origin away from the overtly stoner aesthetic, but the composition of many of the songs is far more aggressive. This, however, is a double-edged sword. While it makes some of the songs feel more urgent, mean and immediate, it also causes tension with the obviously languid pace the band feels comfortable with, and this has implications for the entire tone of the album.

 

When Bulsara and the band mesh, the results are compelling and crushing. “Lockjaw” is the best example of Sound of Origin nailing the edgier side of their sound. Bulsara croons, he snarls, he growls, all over a fuzzy yet head-snapping riff and propulsive drumming. It’s the shortest song on the album, but it’s a helluva good time. Most numbers are significantly slower and more restrained than “Lockjaw,” but can be just as interesting. “Into the Vile” is dense and thick, but clever riffage and dynamic tempo changes that keep the momentum going. It’s top-quality stoner doom, and it’s aided by excellent production by Chris Fielding of Conan. He ensures that the drums pop, the guitars sound fuzzy without being emasculated, and the bass work isn’t neglected. These elements combine for some great tracks.

It isn’t all successful, however. Occasionally, Sound of Origin gets too bogged down in the band’s old style, and Bulsara’s vocals simply clash with the material. “Stoned Messiah Blues” feels like a marijuana-inspired noodling session, until the howling screams take the listener completely out of the mood. Other songs are affected by a similar malady, with “Morning Bird” and “Tempest Dunes” suffering from the tension between parts that feel a little too chilled, and vocals and elements that are sometimes too intense. This is likely a hangover from the fact that most of the ideas predated Bulsara’s arrival. But the effect can be jarring.

Sound of Origin’s debut sounds like an album that has been rejigged and retooled in light of their new band member. Bulsara is an excellent singer, but it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t suit all the material. When he and the band are in harmony, The All Seeing Eye is funky, compelling stoner doom. When he and the band are not… it’s like having a spliff and then being interrupted by your shouty neighbor. The material here is solid, but the tension between the old and the new is palpable, resulting in a collection of songs that feels torn. When Stevie Boiser sang Obscura’s material, it was cool… but it wasn’t Obscura. This feels similar. I’m really interested to see how Sound of Origin’s second LP sounds, with Bulsara more intimately involved in the creative process. Until then, The All Seeing Eye is an interesting, but non-essential, mixed bag.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: APF Records
Websites: soundoforigin.bandcamp.com/  |  facebook.com/soundoforigin/
Releases Worldwide: August 21st, 2020

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