For Fans Of
The Omnific’s first two releases – the ‘Sonorous‘ EP (2016) and ‘The Cuneiform Script‘ single (2017) – while not bad or awful, did feel like mere proof of concepts that an instrumental three-piece rhythm section consisting of just a drummer and two bassists could work. Moving past the blueprint stage and taking that next step forward for their sound, this Melbourne trio’s vision has become far more realised with their second EP, ‘Kismet‘.
‘Kismet‘ (meaning “fate” or “destiny”) walks a solid line between being an attention-commanding virtuosic release and being an exceptional background musical epic. Whether that duality was intended or not, it doesn’t really matter, as either way this two-pronged approach works to this EP’s advantage so well. What I mean is that for all of the muso’s listening along who are looking for interesting sections to notate or practice for chops-sake or for jazzy, technical songs to learn, there’s plenty to choose from these eight tracks. Likewise, lovers of instrumental music have a whole EP’s worth of such material to score their daily routines and nightly habits more than well enough. And I feel that anyone sitting between those two camps – whether they’re simply curious about this group’s uniqueness or are just looking for something different – can still extract enough enjoyment and appreciation from what is a very talented band creating something so much more than just glorified études for music performance kids.
Bassists Matthew Fackrell and Toby Peterson-Stewart play off each other’s parts so goddamn well across this release and the pair have created some beautiful, colourful and expressive harmonic sounds from their respective 5-string Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo basses. Whether it’s the lovely jazz noodling in ‘Sonorous Pt. 2‘ (suss out the arguably weaker part one here), the bass shredding heard on ‘Objets du Vertu‘ or the pounding, string-thumping moments on the title track or ‘Ersatz‘. Not only that, but the duo’s actual bass tones are to fucking die for here, good god!
Of course, the bass is just two-thirds of The Omnific’s overall sound, with the final third of their sound being air-tight drummer Jerome Lematua (who also doubles as the drummer for fellow Melbourne instrumental prog-metallers, Ambit). This guy really holds his own against his two bandmates 10-string assault, and he often steals the show right from them. Much like the tone of the basses, Lematua’s drumkit itself sounds terrific throughout the whole EP, and he truly plays to the songs in a real musical sense – never against them. Plus, everything from his fast double kick work, rock-solid grooves, well-placed cymbal hits, as well as every subtle snare drag and every Luke Holland-like drum fill (you know, the one that Holland plays in 90% of his covers) the drummer lands works wonderfully in the wider context of The Omnific’s unique setup. And I think it’s safe to say that this band’s music just wouldn’t be as good or as effective without Lematua behind the kit.
As you can probably guess by now, like all great rhythm sections, this Aussie trio is scarily in-sync with each one another. Their tight syncopation, incredibly impressive performances and melodic songwriting cues all combine to create an interesting and truly dynamic sound. Yet for those who might be wondering, there’s more instrumentation present beyond just bass and drums.
Helping to fill out the band’s often complex and mathy sound beyond just a mere rhythm section are added piano parts, pristine virtual string arpeggios, quiet atmospherics, or bright synth melodies working behind or below the band’s core elements of drums and bass. The occasional reverse effect or solid use of panning on the basses (opener ‘Proem‘ sees Fackrell and Peterson-Stewart being panned hard left and right before one of them takes the centre mix zone for the bridge section) also helps to spice things up more so. Mixer Jesse Holt (who is also a member of Ambit) has nailed the mix here. Sure, while one can argue that there’s not that many moving cogs in the well-oiled machine that is The Omnific’s sound, kudos must still be given to Holt for making such a smooth and clean sounding mix.
Now, as for the actual songs, The Omnific make good on the traction and interest they’ve garnered this year by delivering their strongest, most well-written compositions thus far. For instance, the song ‘Kismet‘ is a brilliant summarization of the trio’s various elements and their influences and ‘Objets du Vertu‘ is the real flagship tune for what the trio is capable of. Elsewhere, ‘That’s All She Wrote‘ and ‘Condemned‘ are a gorgeous, calming pair that both glide like summery breezes with their layered instrumentation, melodic synths, soothing atmos, and relaxed timbres flowing together. As odd as it may sound, they’re like musical herbal tea for your soul. Then right after this lush midway point, The Omnific rip through some glorious cognitive contortions (bonus points if you get the reference) with one of the EP’s strongest cuts, ‘Ersatz‘. It’s a punishing track that would make Animals As Leaders and Evan Brewer himself very impressed, what with its sharp bass lines, jagged rhythms, Middle-Eastern scales, proggy drum patterns and brutal double kicks. In short, these eight songs are consistently technical and satisfying; the best kind of sweet spot a band like this can aim for.
Finally, I really do feel that there’s something for everyone on ‘Kismet‘; both in terms of musicality and emotional intent. I’ve said more than enough about the former already but as for the latter aspect, much of this EP – especially the eponymous track – comes from Fackrell being diagnosed with Type 1 (T1) Diabetes. In the press release for ‘Kismet‘, he mentioned that it’s “…an incredibly personal release for me, as being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in February of this year. Having these tracks to work on helped me to not get overwhelmed from the life-changing issues I was facing“. Even going so far as to write the titular track whilst he was in the hospital.
While such a medical issue may not be relevant to you and your own life – it is for me and my own family’s history, annoyingly enough – there’s just this really warm, fuzzy comforting feeling that washes over you with this EP; an accomplishment that can be hard to pull off when your band has no vocals or lyrics to convey said feelings, let alone no guitars.
Look, let’s not kid ourselves here: The Omnific is indeed a gimmick band. However, the most important difference there is that they’re actually a good gimmick band. Hell, they’re even a great one! I do have to wonder how the band will handle a full-length album when the time comes, that they can do more with their sound, and what they’ll do to add further variety to their music without upheaving the core formula; what really makes The Omnific who they are. But I remain confident these guys will take that all in stride unless it all goes tits up. And excusing the Wooten’s and Brewer’s out there, I really do believe that these guys, despite their young age, could really help to open up doors for not just bassists in djent/prog/whatever but also for other instrumental ideas and new approaches in heavy music.
Truly, the sky’s the limit for this band.