Before you enter Allen Scott’s home, you get a feeling of what has helped the guitarist fashion Beneath Oblivion’s most recent full-length, The Wayward and the Lost. The Cincinnati-based Doom Metal quartet has spent its time between 2011’s From Man to Dust and now constructing an album of sorrow, release, pain and grime — elements that are sometimes knocking at the doorstep of Scott’s city apartment building. Seven years may seem like a long time between releases, but if Doom Metal artists are good at anything, it’s making music their way and on their own time. On both accounts, that’s generally loud and slow.
“Doom is a glacial speed; you don’t even get into the ballgame until like 20 years in,” Scott says.
And he should know. Beneath Oblivion (rounded out by vocalist/guitarist Scott Simpson, bassist Keith Messerle and drummer James Rose) has been around for 15 years and most of the members have been active for many more. They have seen much of the world and know that it’s not always beautiful, so when the time came for the band to work on The Wayward and the Lost’s desolate, burdened and bleak brand of Funeral Doom, their inspirations were at the forefront of their minds.
“If you live in the city, you know it seeps into your bones, it seeps into your skin, you can’t wash it out,” Scott says. “I’m from the city, I’ve been here my whole life; everything in this album is affected by that. Gentrification, everything — it’s all in there.”
Where From Man to Dust drew from elements of apocalyptic events and the fallout of human choice and fallacy, The Wayward and the Lost concerns itself with micro level corruption and loss.
“The premise for the album title and everything starts with From Man to Dust, a lyric, ‘None of your sadness can save the doomed,’ ” Scott says. “That kept playing in my mind since the (last) album came out. We have the wayward and we have the lost and you can take that literally. Some people are just lost and you can’t save them. Especially with addiction in this country and the way things have gone the past few years with opiates — lots of hopelessness.”
The band looked inward as well when time came to flesh out their lyrical themes. “The Wayward and the Lost to me also represents a lot of the things I’ve lost over the past few years or just the things that’ve died, the people who’ve died,” says vocalist/guitarist Simpson. “I can say that 2017 was easily one of the worst years of my life for losing a lot of people, so it’s been a rough ride.”
But Simpson also finds solace among the sometimes overwhelmingly austere output.
“For me, it’s all about catharsis, because it just feels good to play loud and scream my head off and just force out every ounce of my negativity on everything I hate or hate about myself,” he says. “I can just push that shit out and go back to being a good guy.”
Heavy-as-lead lyrics need an underpinning powerful enough to not crush under the weight and Beneath Oblivion accomplished this by following Simpson’s plan: slower and louder. With the shortest of five tracks clocking at over seven minutes and the longest at over 16, The Wayward and the Lost lumbers along like a mythical giant of old. Restraint is not a word often associated with Heavy Metal, but in the sparse compositions of Doom Metal, it undeniably applies and forces upon bands a unique challenge. How do you craft songs that hold a listener’s interest for long run times while also bringing the BPM’s down to a fifth of what most Metal songs are written in? In a word: carefully.
“You may have the best riff in the world and you can only play it once in a song because two measures, three measures is like five minutes. It forces you to be creative,” Scott says.
But the plodding course of The Wayward and the Lost, coupled with Simpson’s dynamic mix of dirges, unholy screeches and gutturals, can place its audience on its back and take them to another place. As Scott explains, “It’s supposed to transport you. It’s supposed to take you away from this, transcend this ugliness.”
Doom Metal as a genre — and Beneath Oblivion as a band — is not for everyone. It’s a musical style that can envelop the ear in a way that few others can. It’s not the kind of music to listen to on a sunny drive to Kroger and the guys know that.
“We wanted to put something out that’s original, that makes a statement. There’s no middle ground. You’re either going to love it or fucking hate it. And I’m OK with that,” Scott says.
“I kind of expect it,” Simpson adds.
After over a decade of touring, recording, writing and performing, authenticity is held in the highest regard. Beneath Oblivion knows that good music will earn fans without relying on gimmicks or consolations of character.
“We made a decision to strip everything down, make it more minimal. It’s very honest,” Scott says. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I was pushing the genre a little bit. This is something new. The soul is there. It’s very organic.”
To paraphrase a moment of drunken clarity once relayed to me, it’s not the notes within a Doom Metal song that matter, but the space between them. As with many PBR-influenced adages, that misses the mark a bit, but Beneath Oblivion’s newest release definitely helps prove the overall point. The band has constructed a suite of songs that are a gateway to the ugliness of the world, while also providing time to contemplate just how messed up the world can be. They’ve done this in a way that only a band with 15 years of struggle and hard work behind them can, with an earnestness and devotion to their art that you can hear between every single guitar lick, cymbal hit and growl.