Ominous Ubiquitous

New year, new me! HAHA AMIRIGHT?!

Nah I’m kidding no one. You know you’re getting the same general bullshit and unrelated rantings that make me so… let’s say charming? I’M A FRIGGIN’ DELIGHT. But listen, if I do have any actual resolutions for 2023, I’d like to at least make more of an effort to reach out to more bands without a label backing, or that are generally in the early stages of making their mark on the world of metal, and give them whatever minuscule boost my tiny little platform can help provide them (even if that platform only amounts to about 3 legal notepads stacked on each other. I know my worth).

To that end, Kansas City Death Metal upstarts Kohnerah have made it pretty dang easy to at least get this resolution off the ground on the right foot, with a debut record that, even through some minor growing pains you’d expect from a new band trying to figure out exactly who they want to be, show signs of a band poised to earn some well-deserved attention in the coming year.

A little background – the band does have some veteran presence in the Kansas and Missouri metal scenes, with bassist Spencer Halstead and guitarist JD Cantrell both members of the excellent Damned by the Pope, and vocalist Stephen Babcock formerly holding down mic duties with the long-defunct Diskreet (side note, their phenomenal debut full-length from 2010 was re-released on limited vinyl by The Artisan Era in 2021, and is WELL worth your checking out). Drummer Chris Thorpe and guitarist Josh Riley round out the group who are riding into battle with a hefty, Technically-tinged barrage of Death Metal straight to your face that would please any fans of Suffocation, Deeds of Flesh or Monstrosity. 

One thing that jumps right out at you from the first note of opener “Wake of Oblivion,” is that Kohnerah aren’t interested in beating around the bush with subtleties, this is an all-out assault armed with a mix of brute force and pinpoint accuracy that attacks listeners from every angle – and while the opener and follow-up “Bovine Excision” certainly make that point plenty clear, it’s third track “Antimatter Annihilation” that really puts the band’s agenda on full display, exploding out of the gate with a biting, razor sharp riff and relentless blasts that go off like a dozen pipe bombs filled with a shards of broken glass, before Babcock’s commanding growl bursts out “PIECE BY PIECE!” and what once felt like being sliced to shreds by thousands of cuts, suddenly becomes a  point blank shotgun blast straight to your kneecap, as the blunt force trauma of a massive breakdown practically slams you into a whole other state of being – and the barrage doesn’t end there, alternating between hefty brutality and face-melting speed until you’re left a heaving, bloody pulp on the floor. And just when the song ends and you think you have a second to catch your breath and check all your faculties to make sure everything’s still attached and functioning – the band has the audacity to come smashing through the speakers with an absolute haymaker on “Eye of the Panopticon,” a track that treats treats the brake pedal like an optional extra they decided to leave at the dealership. The unrelenting riffs scream along like a sort of sadistic bobsled, dragging you behind on the jagged ice as it throws you into every corner with the precision of an Olympic athlete, but the intent of an absolute lunatic. By the time the song comes to its screeching halt, I just want to be left alone to bleed out and die in a corner. Have mercy!

But no. These goddamn maniacs aren’t even close to being through with you. “Inoculus” comes on like a storm surge, pounding listeners with relentless waves of of punishment – particularly from drummer Chris Thorpe, who turns in one of the album’s more impressive performances. He leads the charge with a dizzying barrage of war drums and rapid fire blasting that set a blistering tone, with the guitars following suit to make for a thoroughly neck-snapping experience. Again, the band’s tireless assault on the senses has me reeling and looking for a bit of a respite, and for once? The band is actually willing to compromise (even if only slightly) on “Plucked From the Sky” which, it just so happens, is the band’s pièce de résistence – breaking out a much more melodic and nuanced approach that makes for a more balanced attack. To these ears, the change in tone and approach actually seems to fit the band even more comfortably than the all-out blitzkrieg they deployed through the first five tracks, creating a more dynamic, organic listening experience, with guitars that take a few pages from late-era Schuldiner and Peter Tägtgren added to the mix. And when the guitars and drums both simplify and take a breather (such as around the 4:37 mark), it gives the power of Babcock’s voice and and the intricacies of Halstead’s bass lines more room to shine through, giving each even greater impact. To even further cement my opinion here, the band rounds out the album with the excellent “Elegiac Departure,” utilizing similar tact en route to another doozy that, to me, best puts the band’s talents on display without abandoning the sheer heft they’ve clearly shown they’re capable of – giving you the best of both worlds.

At the end of the day, there’s a TON to like about Ominous Ubiquitous, and if Kohnerah continues to build on some of the balance they showcased towards the end of the record, I think they’re well on their way to finding a winning formula that will set them up for even more success. As it stands, Ominous Ubiquitous is certainly well worth your time on its own, and between the killer tracks presented here, and the gorgeous cover art provided by the late legend Mariusz Lewandowski, the band shows they’ve got the goods, and the vision, to become a real force in the coming years. Check this out, pronto.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
January 13th, 2023


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