EP REVIEW: OAK – Your Mess As Much As Mine

Having been making waves in their native Sweden and across Europe over the last three years, Gothenburg’s OAK have returned with their follow-up to their 2014 self-titled record.

Like other Truthseeker Records artists, OAK take basic elements from contemporary heavy genres like hardcore, metal and screamo and make them entirely their own. Gothenburg may be famous for birthing melodic death metal, but OAK are an entirely different kind of heavy. Their new EP, Your Mess As Much As Mine, is a visceral assault on the senses that never once lets up in its 17-minute run-time, while still managing to maintain a level of nuance and musicality.

OAK are, first and foremost, a hardcore band, and there’s nothing wrong with that – but there’s a strong crust punk influence running through Your Mess…, as well as elements of some of the more extreme brands of metal. The sheer malice and heaviness implies OAK are cut from the same musical cloth as Converge and Trap Them, elevating them, while not quite to that level, far above your bog-standard beatdown hardcore band.

Opener Broken Bodied leaves the listener no time to ease into Your Mess…, making OAK’s intentions clear with a combination of breakneck riffs, guttural screaming and breakdowns. These may be familiar tropes in hardcore, but the absolute force with which they are executed makes Broken Bodied a solid introduction. And an introduction is all it is – Garden is really the first track proper, introducing crust punk elements such as blast beats and tremolo picking. The combination of extreme metal elements and hardcore is hardly a new idea, but the way in which these styles are played, as well as the how far into each territory an artist can veer, is something that OAK can and do play with. This has the delightful result of keeping things fresh.

This development continues throughout Your Mess…, as the final two tracks exemplify. The first three tracks are the aural equivalent to a slap in the face; fast, heavy, unrelenting, over within two-and-a-half minutes (there’s a dirty joke in there somewhere but we hold ourselves to higher standards than that).

This is just starting to become grating when OAK switch things up. The band’s uncompromisingly heavy approach doesn’t allow for a whole lot of deviation from fast and heavy, but Elsewhere introduces a longer running time, and more structured song writing. There’s a bridge which incorporates math-rock influences, which precedes a breakdown that feels genuinely earned, a thing which is not often the case in hardcore.

Sludgy closer Family and Friends slows things down to half-time, which is unprecedented considering how Your Mess… started off. Despite this, it works exceedingly well. Its almost six-minute running time shows OAK are able to pull off a more complex composition, and be as extremely heavy and relentless in more ways than one. Family and Friends makes Your Mess… feel like an album-sized journey, which is an incredible achievement for a 17-minute EP. It ends on nearly a full minute of guitar feedback, leaving the listener to soak up the intensity of what they’ve just experienced.

Your Mess… takes established musical tropes and flips them on their side, creating a concoction of all the best parts of extreme music. It’s not perfect, or a masterpiece, but it’s a fantastic piece of heavy music.


Standout Tracks: Elsewhere, Family and Friends

For Fans Of: Trap Them, Nails, Black Breath

Written by: Alan Cunningham