REVIEW: Owl Maker - Paths of the Slain


Owl Maker rides a fine-line between the world of driving rock and doomy stoner-metal bands such as Red Fang, and Mastodon, the combination providing just enough energy to distinguish itself from the countless duplicates floating around these days. In fact, Owl Maker seems to find its home in more high-energy riffs and hooks then the sometimes proggy doom-like aspects of it's cousins. This band has a bevy of catchy chorus work to enjoy, which often feels styled after more traditional rock and heavy metal. I'd go so far as to say that verses serve merely to compliment the main attraction, or strengthen the idea of a particular chorus, and, though more complicated compositions do lie somewhere in the standardized writing – they just don't stand out so much. This all works well, and makes tracks like 'Witches', which breaks the album's formula with harsher vocals, more effective. Owl Maker could have just kept things straight forward and they would have been fine, but the band does take a moment here and there to diverge – which is a particularly nice touch.

Though I'm singing high praise for this group, it is not without it's sins. The band loves it's layered effects, almost no song is without them. It can sound really good at times, but far too many tracks have vocals with a washy chorus effect, and the guitar can have a distracting amount of flange. 'Freya's Chariot' has probably the most 80's level synth I've heard in years (or maybe it's something like a moog?), but it's not implemented very well. And, what happened with the end of 'Ride with Aileen'? That has to be the most jarring fade out I've ever heard, and who fades out with the first song of the album? Worse yet, a few tracks seem to just fall flat compared to some of the others, lacking the overall energy and creativity that made the rest so catchy, or memorable (like 'Witches'). You start to get the feeling, at times, that Paths of the Slain is dipping a little far into the tired-and-familiar formulas of similar bands.

Take it as you may, Paths of the Slain is pretty good. I can't help but feel, especially taking the album's few shortcomings into consideration, that these songs are heavily meant to be played live. No, there is nothing sub-par about them, but with a few abrupt stops, and numerous effects that have clearly been amplified throughout a more clean and direct recording process, it becomes pretty evident rather fast. I personally believe Owl Maker would benefit from a more raw sound, but that may just be my inner stoner-metal fan speaking out where it shouldn't. At this point, I'm going to say that Owl Maker has a bright future ahead and Paths of the Slain is a good jumping off point for quality and writing, but some unique strides need to be taken for the band to really stand apart from the numerous other bands within the stoner-metal/doom-metal spectrum.

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