Doomood certainly has to be one of the most outrageously original albums made in recent years.
Imagine heavy rock music without guitars. No crunching chords. No guitar solos. Not even a thumping bass. You are probably thinking: what is left? Would it be John Bonham bashing away for fifteen minutes of Moby Dick? Luckily, there are other alternatives and Ottone Pesante demonstrate one of them in this release. Those with a command of Italian will have guessed that we are talking about brass instruments here since Ottone Pesante translates literally as ‘Heavy Brass’. Not surprisingly the three band members are Italian too: Francesco Bucci who plays trombone and tuba, Paolo Raineri who adds trumpet and flugelhorn, and Beppe Mondini who rather boringly just plays the drums.
Before those of you who don’t like jazz trios jump to the wrong conclusion and hit the back arrow key, hold on! From the prog-like opening, which if you didn’t know differently you would assume was just synthesised keyboards droning away, through to the remarkably heavy brass-played power chords, this is a bona fide rock album, sitting somewhere between progressive rock and heavy doom. The textures are often strange and always very dark but once you get used to it you’ll realise there is everything a regular rock fan loves to hear in this music: haunting cinematic atmospheres, headbang-able chord progressions, even inspiring solos! Much of the album is instrumental and the only track with normal vocals (courtesy of guest singer and fellow Italian Sara Bianchin) is the excellent Tentacles, which builds up to a climax via a repeated theme which increases with intensity as the song progresses. The standout track for me is the wonderfully titled Coiling Of The Tubas, an instrumental which starts off in a fairly downbeat way before at the half-way mark exploding into a glorious trumpet solo which is so good that you’ll be sorely tempted to stand up and start leaping around the room playing an air-trumpet! After the first four tracks, you might feel you are getting to understand the paradigm Ottone Pesante use but then they surprise once again by giving us a shorter and faster piece called Serpentine Serpentone with very aggressive growling vocals (this time from Silvio Sassi, singer from another Italian band, Abaton). Imagine Van Der Graaf Generator trying to play Death Metal and you might get an inkling of what this track sounds like! Coming from a country that is known for polite melodic music, even in its prog-rock form, this is truly astounding.
The album title is of course a palindrome (if you weren’t aware: that’s a word or phrase that reads identically backwards). The band comment ‘The entire album was composed in a palindrome manner, like there’s a mirror on the pentagram at about half of it, that overturn the composed sequences. The climax is a ‘reverse canon superimposed’ and from which the main voice comes down in a reverse motion, sometimes strictly, sometimes changing rhythm or changing role from trumpet to trombone.’ Good luck in understanding that, I say! Some of the themes in the second part of the album do indeed seem to reflect what has gone before, so the track Strombacea seems to be a slightly warped musical version of Tentacles, with warped male vocals delivered in death metal growls replacing the sweeter tones of Sara Bianchin.
Is this the best album ever made? No, it isn’t, but Doomood certainly has to be one of the most outrageously original albums made in recent years, as well as one of the most progressive ones (in the true sense of the word). If you’re feeling that much of what you hear today is regurgitating the same old stuff then give Ottone Pesante a try. Don’t worry if you can’t tell the difference between a tuba and a flugelhorn; just sit back and enjoy listening to something totally different!