Oni is a progressive metal band that has been around for a lustrum or so. Their first album, Ironshore, came out in 2016 receiving good notices and much deserved attention. Making tour appearances with Gojira and Children of Bodom, Oni started to gain a following by more and more by fans. The EP Alone is out from Metal Blade on December 13, 2019 and sees a welcome return of the heavy prog sensibilities of Ironshore in a more compact package.
The new one is consistent with the debut, if a little more polished and absent the epic 11-minute song like “The Science” from Ironshore. One-at-a-timing it, “Alone” begins with a melodic trance and goes sharp fast, with popping percussion and piercing staccato guitars. Mournful lyrics get set aside by the band’s signature xylosynth breaks only to return before an abrupt ending that leaves you a little dizzy. This opener sets the tone for the the rest of the music, but does not give away all the surprises. Vocalist Jake Oni starts gruff with “Rift” before mixing in softer tones about being confused and lost. The music has a frantic wandering not seen since Saga’s World’s Apart album, touched quietly by the rare Jake E. Lee warble moment. “Dead Inside” is a hard-driving corruption, a pulsing expedition forcing its way through a thick jungle. It is rough and relentless with only the smallest pauses for rest in the middle. I expected a bit of a wind-down on “Breathe Again” just because of the rampant pace of the first four songs, but that does not happen – howls this time from the synth and swirling tension from the guitars, raw emotion in the vocals. The EP closes with a dissonant clap on the ears, “Faceless Portrait.” Showing the coarsest vocals of the set, and the tallest musical construction, Oni brings the hammer down on the final song with authority and crushing power.
No other band straddles the metal/prog in quite the same way was a Oni. But it is not just that the band has a different sound compared to other metal acts – what sets them apart is a vision and a message that is loud and clear in their live performances, and is conjured and solidified in Alone. The songs “Alone” and “Breathe Again” are the singles but you are going to want to listen to all five of them, preferably together. They really do hold up as a set, and there is a clear musical and narrative arc from the first to the last. Recommended.