2019 had been a pretty quiet year for Oni, up until now. It’s clear they were probably taking some time off, however they’ve spent that time working on their new EP – Alone. For this EP, the band got Josh Wilbur on board as producer, who is known for his work with big-name metal bands such as Trivium, Gojira and Lamb Of God. Riding on the wave of positive reception they received from their debut album Ironshore, Oni are looking to feed off of that momentum to establish themselves as a household name in the modern prog metal genre.
We start with the title track of the album. After a bit of noodling, the song is straight in with a trademark proggy riff. The band opt for a cleaner vocal sound here while retaining their progressive twist. Complex instrumental sections succeed the chorus, combined with some bars of 6 give Alone it’s characteristics. Once you’ve delved deep enough into this track, you’ll come across a section which catches you a bit off guard. All I can describe it as is a Dream Theater-like instrumental, with the guitars and synths taking on a mind of their own momentarily. This probably wasn’t necessary for the song, but it highlights the ambition and bravery of the band. I don’t quite know what to make of Alone. I feel as though it a good song, yet maybe it wasn’t the best choice as a single. Track 2 comes in the form of Rift, which shows Oni at their best. Plenty of prog riffs, a nice balance of clean and screaming vocals and a tight rhythm section with an in-your-face attack. When the vocals kick in, you can hear that slipknot influence in the music. The speed and aggressive nature of Rift really gives it that edge to a metal track, one that really commands the attention of the listener. The band show their creativity without packing too much into a single song. Oni don’t play all their cards here, nevertheless, they show you that they’ve got a few aces up their sleeves. I wouldn’t call it catchy as such, however Rift has that repeat factor, where you could listen to it a few times in a row and not get bored of it (well, I didn’t get bored anyway).
Dead Inside moves away from the progressive side and acts like more of an all-out heavy song. Utilising screams, speed and velocity, Oni show that for all their technical prowess, they can still hit the listener with some good old raw metal. Although the chorus retains the pace of the song, adding a brighter sound, I’m not sure it blends too well with the rest of the song. Having said that, I have to credit them for keeping things interesting throughout this song. Despite that, the chorus and a few uneasy-sounding parts in the middle 8 section just doesn’t quite fit together for me. Breathe again fittingly comes after Dead Inside, sharing a handful of similarities. In comparison, it’s another heavy-hitting, fast-paced metal mash-up. In contrast, it feels more united as a song than Dead Inside. Oni aren’t at their progressive peak here, however, Breathe Again is well-constructed, with the sections transitioning more smoothly than the previous musical number. I think they could’ve made the chorus feel a bit bigger and hit harder than it does, but overall, it’s a very solid song.
The last track on the album follows a bit of a different path from the rest. Faceless Portrait is a song which stands out on it’s own, not necessarily matching with the others off the album. Having said that, it makes for the most musically interesting track of the album. It starts with a weird sounding guitar intro, coupled with the famous xylosynth that the band are known for using. After that, it goes into some Djent-like stabs where almost everything hits in unison, with some rapid double bass pedal notes layered underneath. In other words, it’s pretty heavy shit. The whole song is just badass. Whether it works together is something for you to figure out, but regardless, I love the energy and creativity Oni show. They do a great job of keeping you guessing. Basically, if you want something a bit out there, heavy as hell and littered with loads of different rhythmic variations, Faceless Portrait is the song for you.
In conclusion, this EP isn’t as consistent or as strong as Ironshore. Still, It is an EP rather than an album, and I think the release will benefit the band. They’ve wrote some great songs to take forward with them, and I believe they will continue to grow and learn as a band. If Oni can give their choruses as big an impact (or bigger), than their verses, I’m sure they will soon become one of the top modern prog bands within metal.
Highlights: Rift, Faceless Portrait, Alone
Alone is out now via Metal Blade Records and can be purchased here.