Even this early into 2022 and, across extreme music, you can already see the continuation where 2021 left off, with bands pushing the boundaries of their respective genres, whether it be death metal, grindcore, metalcore, or, in the case of Australian band OAR, black metal.
A beautiful marriage of black metal and post-metal, OAR’s stunning The Blood You Crave record, release earlier this year, has set quite a standard for bands of this genre (read our review here) so we decided to find out more about what inspires the Australian band to write such bleak, suffocating music in a recent conversation with the band’s drummer, Mark Donaldson (MD).
Thanks for your time. How is life treating you at the moment?
Mark Donaldson: “Good thanks, man. Still riding the high from our first ever show in Melbourne last week with the almighty Kvll. Melbourne is otherworldly and the underground thrives in the shadows. There were bodies flailing in front of us and our energy became one.”
The Blood You Crave has been out for a few weeks now, what did you want to achieve with it?
“We wanted to achieve misery and chest-bursting sadness. A full-length album that locks you into its gaze. Something that draws you to it when you’re downcast. Now that it’s released we can finally perform our role as servants to this music.”
It’s been praised worldwide, have you paid any attention to the reaction?
“Thanks, we’ve really been blown away by the response. Truly unexpected. We’ve heard our tracks being played and talked about on French radio and written about in Italian zines. The fact that it’s being listened to outside of our Sydney metal community is just incredible.
We read every review that’s written about us. It’s interesting to hear outside interpretations of the music because it doesn’t fit neatly into any one genre. Some reviews have constructive criticism which we absorb and keep in mind as we write new music.
That being said, when something is praised the trolls feel safe to come out to play. For every album that is loved, it is also hated tenfold. It’s hard to understand why anyone feels the need to shit on someone else’s music in public. Particularly if that music is honest.”
Although OAR is not black metal in the purest scene of the term, it isn’t a genre of music you normally associate with Australia. What is the scene like out there?
“No we don’t classify ourselves as black metal, but we find it to be a useful tool to connect other ideas together. Other people started calling us ‘post-black metal’ before we did, but we very deliberately used elements of black metal in our writing.
The Australian black metal scene is incredible. And it cuts across the entire spectrum of what black metal can be. Recently, I’ve had NORSE and Hope Drone on repeat. They are dissonant black metal and post-black metal, respectively. I think I’ve listened to Encircling Sea every month for twelve years now. I’ve never been this excited about the Australian metal scene and some of us have been in it for decades. My dream is to be on the lineup with all Australian black metal bands.”
Worldwide, including OAR, there are many bands now pushing the boundaries of the genre, do you think black metal has shaken off the association to the Norwegian scene of the ‘90s?
“Yes absolutely. Thanks to bands like Deafheaven. For some people, that’s no thanks but you can’t deny the creativity and inclusion of the post-black metal scene. It has breathed new life into the way a lot of bands write heavy music, although sometimes post-BM bands lean a little too hard into the ‘post’ part for my personal preference. I’m talking about semi-clean reverb-soaked tremolo melodies with rock beats, which sound fucking great in post-rock songs!”
Bands like Oar are incorporating other musical influences into the music. Could you talk us through your writing process as the material on the album has so many layers and so much depth to it… It’s hard to imagine it is a straightforward process…
“Thank you. We write linear songs because we are feeling our way through. We start with a riff and build what we feel flows naturally from it. One rule we have is that every part must be a different version of misery. I don’t think we would even be capable of writing a verse-chorus-verse song if we tried. Although I think bands produce their best material when they put themselves outside of their comfort zone so maybe we should try to write a verse-chorus-verse song…”
What about lyrically, where do you draw inspiration from?
“Suffering mostly. The suffering of others and our own suffering. The things we hate about others and the things we hate about ourselves. And fucking organized religion.”
I’ve seen you talked about alongside bands like Amenra and Sunn O)). Musically, who are the bands that you feel you share a connection with musically?
“Naturally, we love Amenra and Sunn O)), but I think we love a melting pot of Dragged into Sunlight, Envy, ISIS, and Primitive Man.”
What about on a personal level, which musicians or albums have had the biggest impact on you as a person?
“On a personal level, as a drummer, I’ve always been heavily influenced by Encircling Sea from Melbourne. I also love Indian, Lord Mantis, Primitive Man, and True Widow. All of these bands were huge influences on me when we were writing the album.”
We’ve talked about bands pushing the boundaries of the black metal sound and the depth of your sound. Firstly, how do you see the OAR sound developing?
“We won’t stray too far from our style, but in the writing sessions since we recorded The Blood You Crave there has been gravitation towards filth, sadness, and devastation. I think that means that some of the ‘lighter’ moments on the album may not appear again anytime soon.”
What about the genre as a whole, alongside OAR, who do you think are the bands pushing the boundaries of the genre in 2022?
“I think any band on Blighttown Records, Brilliant Emperor, Trepanation Records, Transcending Obscurity, and of course Season of Mist. For strictly post-black metal there’s a few I’ve already mentioned like Hope Drone and Encircling Sea. There’s also a band called Sadness which I love.”
What next for OAR then? What are your plans for the rest of 2022?
“We are so incredibly keen to play live and share these songs with other people. We would love to play more shows outside of Sydney and finish writing a few more songs by the end of 2022.”
Thanks for your time and good luck for the year ahead. Over to you to wrap this up…
“We really appreciate you guys listening to the album and sharing your thoughts. Infernal hails to all!”