Ötzi puts the bass front and center on sonically tempestuous sophomore LP, Storm

Photo Courtesy of Artoffact Records

Oakland band Ötzi have returned with a searing sophomore album called Storm, a bass-forward LP that recalls the early era of post-punk.

Building on the sound forged on the band’s 2017 debut, Storm sees lead singer and bassist Akiko Sampson take center stage on many of its ten tracks. Sampson’s bass lines often provide an anchor for the other instruments, especially on songs such as the opener “Moths,” which features a creative bass part during its bridge, and the high energy single “Holding Still.”

Besides punchy bass, “Holding Still” also features an excellent chorus of dual vocal parts — in the same style as Sleater-Kinney’s “One More Hour” — containing some of the album’s most emotive lyrics such as, “I see the ocean in your eyes/I’m reaching for you/tears reflecting darker skies.”

But Sampson’s bass and vocals are not the only stars of this album. Guitarist K. Dylan Edrich shreds through a heavy riff that punctuates the song “Eight Cups” and, for much of the rest of the album, provides a whirlwind backdrop of airy, flanger-soaked guitar on songs such as “Scorpio” and “15 Stars” that adds depth to the band’s rhythm section.

The members of Ötzi instrumentally balance out the most on the album’s title track, “Storm,” which unfolds at a slower pace than the rest of the album and is mainly characterized by Gina Marie’s rolling drum beats, Sampson’s echoey vocals and light string accompaniment. Given that it’s the album’s final song, its incorporation of additional textures would have been useful earlier on the record as many of the prior songs boil down to drums, guitar, bass and vocals with the occasional keyboard or horn. The band ends the album with a refrain instructing listeners to, “Prepare for the storm,” atop a hazy melody that might stay in your head after the track is over.

In a release, Sampson said Storm is about “huge, violent changes that leave you forever transformed.” But, despite the band’s sophomore LP being a solid record with good musicianship and memorable lyrics, Storm rarely lives up to the ferocity its title evokes. Although songs such as “Tunnels” and “Ballad of Oiwa” exhibit brief flashes of chaos, the group never strays too far from the safety of post-punk song structures.

But still, aside from those drawbacks, Ötzi manages to deliver another helping of high searing rock music that is as scathing as they are wistful. The songs on Storm certainly won’t uproot any trees but they’re sure to knock a few large branches down.

3/5

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