Label: Lummox Records
Genre: Psychedelic/Stoner Doom
Release Date: February 17th, 2023
For Fans Of: Messa, Iron Void, Earthless
Owl are an intriguing psychedelic, pseudo-stoner band from Oakland. I found them a few years ago, started to get interested in them, then got distracted and forgot all about them until Geomancy was announced. The band plays with a retro doom/rock sound that’s spent some time in the sun and isn’t overly worried about anything other than enjoying itself. And there is plenty to enjoy.
The production immediately pops out as a positive of Geomancy. Throughout the record, I hear clear bass, individual drum fills, every vocal inflection, and some great guitar fuzz. Occasionally the vocals start to get buried by the guitars, but this usually works out as the vocals generally just fade when the guitars take the lead. Geomancy simply sounds beautiful.
Every member of Owl gives an all-star performance on Geomancy. Every drum fill sounds stylish and full, and the drummer has a stylish nature to his playing that gives the record some extra pull in an age of programmed drums. The bass offers a similar individualized approach. Rather than deepening the sound of the guitars, the bass is its own instrument on Geomancy, with its own feelings to offer.
Speaking of those guitars, they will be the reason that fans will enjoy this record. From flying solos to the stuttering, opening riff that gradually falls backwards into a comfortable groove resting beneath the vocals, these strings sound fun and fresh. Some of those solos are jammed behind the verses in a way that causes Geomancy to feel like it’s giving the listener multiple great moments for the price of one. The tone of the guitars intentionally flies all over the place, from the typical fuzz of stoner doom to a cleaner, more piercing sound on the highs.
The vocals have a similarly wild tone but to a much lesser effect. While the vocalist is clearly talented and offers as much of an individual approach as all of the other instruments, his style just doesn’t work for me on this album. The singer’s tone makes me think that he is going flat, which distracts from everything else going on. I don’t think the vocals are poorly done, they just aren’t for everyone and are absolutely not for me.
Some riffs from Geomancy have remained in my head throughout my time with this record. Despite this, and despite Owl’s bursting creativity displayed in every song, I found myself drifting away from Geomancy. They have a unique sound with great style and plenty of nice individual lines. However, the full album feels aimless. Music requires both a creator and a listener, and I suspect in this case that I simply may not be in a mindset to enjoy Owl’s more laid-back, retro doom style. I never felt that the band succeeded at creating something large. Rather, they will have an idea that is pretty cool, sculpt it into something approaching very cool, and then move on.
Geomancy takes up too much space for what it is. The record lasts for over an hour, and it feels longer. I would have enjoyed a nice little psychedelic journey full of moments that were neat and nothing more, but I feel outright held captive by the sheer volume of these neat little moments. Splitting this record in half would have resulted in two releases that were both better than the full release. Getting through the full release is more of a burden than a fun experience.
With all that negativity out of the way, I fully expect to see Geomancy on some end-of-the-year best of lists ten months from now. The excellent playing, in-the-moment songwriting, and masterful artistry of Owl will capture the minds of some of their listeners who are in a different headspace than me. And who knows, maybe in five months I’ll return and find that Geomancy works like a gem under a bright summer sun. The ingredients for a great album are certainly there. But for now, I’m ready to be done with Geomancy.
- Awaken The Mountain
- Pyramid Builder
- Minion Of The Amethyst Cave
- Jupiterian Ocean
- Ghost Lanes
- Runes Reprise
- A King For Every Mountain
- Floating Island
- Shadow Of Ehecatl
- La Luz Compartida
Total Playing Time: 1:00:28