Seattle Quartet He Whose Ox Is Gored (HWOIG) are the audio equivalent of throwing things into a wood chipper that you shouldn’t just to see what happens. Growled and screamed and clean vocals, prominent keyboards blend with progressive guitar melodies, and the band ranges in styles from extreme metal to shoegaze to post-whatever-you-want-to-call-it in a way that is thrilling to the senses. I’ve been spending the past hour or so researching the band, trying to purchase all the various singles and such they’ve produced since their inception in 2009. There’s a few items only available on cassettes, sold out, mind you, but you can at least listen to most of the songs online, on their labels and bandcamp page. There’s even live club footage on the Breathe Plastic label that will make you want to go see them play when they come to your town. If you want to hear something new and fresh and are a fan of heavy music, seek out their Rumors, Nightshade and InAeona split releases to hear the evolution of HWOIG.
The Camel, The Lion, The Child is the culmination of all the Seattle quartet has worked up to, mixed by Matt Bayles, ISIS, Mastodon, Norma Jean, The Fall of Troy) this is HWOIG‘s most varied, mature and confident release yet. And complex; there’s so much going on in each song. Within the various rhythms of Omega, the band takes moments to introduce articulated guitar melodies, percussive breakdowns, overdriven guitar riffing, saturated keyboards and yelled vocals. On Crusade, Brian McClelland’s distant yelled vocals are offset by Lisa Mungo’s harmonized and textured singing, smoothing over his angular guitar progressions and John O’Connell’s loose-limbed percussion. Chills are drawn out in the epic buildups and beautiful breakdowns and quieter yet anxious moments in the middle of Crusade. On Zelatype, the guitars take a backseat to the more prominent keyboards and O’Connell’s drumming really shines. On Alpha the band show their tender side, playing dark and mysterious, McClelland’s guitar essaying a delicate melody, Mike Sparks’ bass imparting sensuality, Mungo’s passionate vocals buried in the mix. Yet the band can’t help but throw you for a loop, the song twisting into a progressive metal rocker with McClelland screaming behind his wailing and complex guitars. The finale to the album comes in the 10 minutes of Weighted by Guilt, Crushed Into A Diamond. A slow drum beats behind ringing and echoing guitar motif, keyboards add a minor-key chill, the bass guitar brings some warmth. Halfway through, Mungo sings hesitantly, then the song takes a rougher road, with screams in the distance, the guitars distorted, the drumming wild yet again. There’s an ambient break for you to take a breather, then, cymbals flare up, a fiery guitar keens away, and you’ll be floored and elated at the cathartic sounds the band create with their instruments.
(by Bret Miller)