Our Judgment returns with ferocious second album
Sophomore years tend to suck. Cocky and callow, it’s a tough grade to teach. As a college student, I found myself in the proverbial slump, raw and disconnected from my peers, Propagandhi’s “Middle Finger Response” caterwauling in my brain on the days I drew myself over a cold and blowy bridge to class.
The second release from a band, especially following a well-received debut, can often find itself imbued with this curse: helium-high expectations crushed not like your heart beneath the bulky blue of some girl’s furtive glance from across the room but rather like a can of cheap beer against the forehead of her frat-member boyfriend.
“With metal it’s very easy to make each song sound similar, so we tried arranging them so that the songs complemented each other instead.” – Our Judgment vocalist Jake Olson, on the band’s new EP
Back in August 2010, Eau Claire’s Our Judgment released its first recording, the To Be Human EP reviewed by yours truly in these very pages. The quartet made an immediate impression with five tracks of melodic tech-death metal of a kind and quality that got them notice and praise both here and beyond. Now, two and a half years later, with the release of their sophomore effort, the Concepts EP, has OJ been able to buck the slump? Hell yes, and with horns held high!
While they’ve demonstrated since their inception a keen ear for song in both composition and production, the new EP comes as off an altogether different, more ferocious beast. Whatever freshmen floundering was apparent on the debut has been replaced by a sure-footedness in every aspect of this recording. OJ sounds more confident and focused. What the heck happened? Vocalist Jake Olson (yep, just one vocalist – though the dude makes it sound like three) kindly responded: “(From) 2010-till a week before we went into the studio was filled with member changes, we started REALLY booking and playing shows, and we got a lot more time to learn how to be in a band and to hone our respective craft.” Drummer Tony Buckli and guitarist David Schien have since exited while bassist Chris Galetka and drummer Brett Dahlberg have entered. You may recognize Dahlberg from his exceptional kit-work for Purge the Woods and Fall for Glory (performing on the latter’s superior sophomore release the Front and Center EP).
A common complaint about metal, especially to the un-attuned ear, is that songs tend to blur one into the other. However, each song on Concepts retains its own identity, suggesting much attention to the arrangement of each tune and aided, no doubt, by OJ’s signature indulgence of melody (look no further than the strafing “Delorean” for evidence), a word not often associated with death metal. It begs the question: how important, if at all, are genre conventions to the band?
“We wanted to be represented by songs that were distinct but still shared a common ground,” Olson explained. “With metal it’s very easy to make each song sound similar, so we tried arranging them so that the songs complemented each other instead. We feel it’s the melody that makes it fun and appealing for different listeners. We will continue to write jams that we enjoy, regardless of expectations.”
With nods to acts such as Black Dahlia Murder, Necrophagist, and Gojira, Olson is optimistic about OJ’s future: “We have had very positive reactions to the (new) material, and we are doing a 10-day stint to Texas and back this March: The Vernal Equinox Tour. The goal for Concepts was to build a solid kit for label and management interest. We have had a few offers already, so we’re hopeful we can get some sort of support before our next, hopefully larger, release.”
Concepts is now available digitally at Amazon, iTunes, and ourjudgment.bandcamp.com with CDs coming soon.