The history of doom metal will always have the long dark spectre of HIM looming over it.
By that, of course, I mean Ozzy Osbourne. Though the passion with which Geezer Butler once harrumphed that name during an interview, made it only too clear to me that the Ozzter’s stature was as much an obstacle as a landmark for everyone else in the genre, including Black Sabbath itself.
After all, there are many doom metal bands where the vocalist has decided to become an Ozzy replacement clone on the offchance that Nature and Thanatos manage to finally kill the crazed brummie git, which is about as likely as Kelly Osborne having a career beyond being Kelly Osborne.
Still, they try. The worst offender being, of course, Count Raven, whose vocalist is so Ozzy, he actually managed to out-Ozzy in a sort of creepy pod person sort of way. That didn’t stop their last album, Mammon’s War, rocking the fuck out, despite having an unintentionally hilarious song about killing one’s autistic sprog, but still…. It’s easy to see why most dystopian sci-fi has a bit of cloning going on somewhere in the mix.
Too much familiarity can be utterly alien.
Indeed, if you consider the great doom vocalists (who aren’t called Ozzy), you’ll notice how utterly non-Ozzy they are. There’s no way in hell you’ll ever confuse Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich’s bluesy drawl for Ozzy’s wail, let alone Bobby Liebling’s half-cartoon, half-cantor croon or Eric Wagner’s screaming, scary hippy vocals.
Even noobs like The Sword’s John D. Cronise might use the Ozzy style as a launch pad but then go ahead into Texan wry flattened twang, while what’s-his-name from Uncle Acid & The Dead Beats circumvents the Ozzster altogether, channelling a drugged-up late 60s falsetto that was there long before Sabbath hit the Star Club in Hamburg.
Now the reason why we’re going into such detail is because you need to know this to understand why Maleficia Lamiah, the new EP by British duo Pombagira, is somewhat buggered. Because the vocalist really, really wants to be Ozzy. Not in a sort of ‘kill you in your sleep and wear your clothes’ way, which is the Count Raven approach, but more in the fashion of people who go dressed up as the Gronk from Strontium Dog to comic conventions, and end up getting wanked off in the toilets by She-Ra.
It’s rather admirable, in a sort of gauche way, but it also precludes any originality or anything new.
Which is a problem, because the music, while pushing itself and the band hard in its variety and many-layered approach, falls into a meandering, lost state where nothing really stands out, even as the doom-ery and sludge reaches Jovian levels of heaviness. It goes nowhere despite having more effort in its two long tracks than most metal releases in the last month.
But it fails because it loves Ozzy too much to transcend him, and because – ironically – it thinks quality naturally follows on from effort. That’s the other thing you need to know about doom metal, you see; it’s demanding and also very, very unforgiving….
Pombagira’s Maleficia Lamiah is released on Black Axis Records 18 March 2013Black Axis Records
Alexander Hay is a writer and polemicist based online and in print.