Album Reviews

Olanza: Olanza

The Bristol agitators return with their excellent new LP.

The U.K. underground has been in a rich vein of form where the harder edges of sound are concerned. As a listener, it’s evident that we have been spoilt for choice over the past five years with the likes of Rocket Recordings, Cruel Nature Records, Hominid Sounds and, indeed, Human Worth, providing a gateway for artists constantly thinking outside the box.

Still, there are new bands emerging. Even though the arts are forever at a crossroads and beyond crisis point, artists continue to maintain a religiously-driven attitude in making music, with new bands emerging all the time.

Some have been around for a while without attracting the attention of a wider audience, be it through lack of luck or of no desire to the play the modern game of metrics and flaunting around on social media.

And this where we come to Bristol three-piece, Olanza. Not ones hungry for likes and retweets, instead Olanza are too busy buckling the studio walls, and with their latest self-titled offering, the result is something completely different to what most are doing in the space of heavy and hypnotic music in Old Blighty.

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With various line-up changes since their inception in 2014, Olanza’s current incarnation is Annie Gardiner (The Hysterical Injury), guitarist Aron Ward (Repoman, Harpoon) and drummer, Shaun Sepr (FiveKnuckle, Fuk).

Following their 2018 record, Bonanza, while the latter was slightly more melodic in structure and tone, Olanza sees the band taking the blowtorch to their listeners. Yes, this is utter fury committed to tape.

Carefully sculptured  by underground noise doctor, Wayne Adams (Kulk, Why Patterns et al), with the assistance of Liverpool’s Stephen Kerrison who added the final touches at Tall Trees Audio Mastering, Olanza boasts a ferocious interplay of withering guitars and booming, militant rhythm sections akin to a mushroom cloud. A beautiful chaos in its own right.

Without the B flat tunings of their post-metal siblings, Pelican, Olanza is a feral head charge reminiscent of Polvo’s mind-bending math-rock and Brummie shredders Einstellung and their diesel-powered take on kraut rock.

Olanza - Olanza

The pandemonium starts with Accelerator, unravelling with immediate bass weight, sparkly tricks and scorched tones. Not in a showy exhibitionist way, though. It’s simply a band locked into the groove.

Next up is Boko Maru, which, like Sun Melter, both hold a Polvo-on-acid vibe. It’s Olanza’s best impression of being playful, however this doesn’t last too long, starting with Descent: a wild, anabolic post-metal V8 engine roar, bursting with sheer power and raw speed.

Which leads into the album’s centrepiece, Lone Watie. With a motoric fireball chug and a bass tremor fit to move planets, Lone Watie is like a lost recording from Pelican’s Australasia.

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Then there’s Navarone, which sees Olanza loosing up with a groove metal vibe that infiltrates the brethren of noise-rock. It’s an unlikely marriage but Olanza make it work in their own debauched way.

Out of breath and on our last legs, Olanza cap it all off with Constant. Brimming with flannel-shirted fuzz and deafening bunker sonics, on Constant the cranial overload is too much to bear, capping off an album that is likened to a fucking blast zone.

Like trying to pick through ash-sodden personal effects after a house fire, Olanza requires a lot post-mortem examination. That’s why you can’t go into something like this half-arsed. Repeated listens are essential to grapple with the immediate weight of this. In this day and age, one could say a band like Olanza are making music firstly for themselves, and secondly for anyone who wishes to endure their ungodly wrath.

Essentially this is how cult followings begin, and in the coming months (if they haven’t already) Olazno should have one up and down the country and beyond.  

Olanza is out now Human Worth. Purchase from Bandcamp. 10 per cent of the album’s proceeds to be donated to charity to help support those in crisis.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

6 replies on “Olanza: Olanza”

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