Sin, Severity and God Ox’s Abyssal Gigantism

Going by the lyrics of Abyssal Gigantism, New York sludge/doom outfit God Ox’s full-length debut, it’s pretty clear someone in the band has studied theology in either a formal or informal setting. My money’s on vocalist War Ox, who’s responsible for the lyrics, and who references St. Augustine and John Scotus Eriugena by name and makes numerous other references to Christian mythology throughout Abyssal Gigantism’s six tracks. Amidst heavy, lumbering stoner riffage, eye-reddening bass and cymbal crash, War Ox spews lines like “Like a Manichean I believe that evil has an equal place,” on “Pestilent Dogmata,” speaking to at least a more than passing interest in his subject matter. The heathen twist is that the god in question is, as the name of the band would suggest, an ox. One has to wonder if it’s some reference to Christianity’s pagan beginnings or just needling believers and having a little fun. Maybe a bit of both.

But for the shorter “Ox Flu Zombie Apocalypse” – probably the only cut on Abyssal Gigantism not theologically relevant unless you want to make some plague-as-apocalypse interpretation of “Spread the oxfection while I feast on brain,” which I guess you could if you really felt like it – and “Pestilent Dogmata,” every song is over seven minutes long, and God Ox, whose double-guitars provide ample thickness to the chugging verse riff of “Priest Infection,” tend to make the most of their time. The album has a basic feel to it (doubtless the thematic heft takes up some of the sonic room), but the neither the arrangements nor the riffs themselves are simple. Guitarists Frost Ox and Axe Ox (aka Captain Riffwright) contort otherwise straightforward structures much the same way War Ox has deified the cattle from whence he, the band and all of his bandmates take their names. In closer “The Ontological Argument for the Existence of Lord God Ox,” tempo changes and interplay between the guitars and the rhythm section of Beast Ox (bass) and Myth Ox (drums) caps Abyssal Gigantism in noisy ultra-doomed fashion.

They walk a line between doom, sludge and stoner, as do a lot of bands, but don’t really dwell in one genre over the other. As Beast Ox launches album opener “Benevolent Severity,” what stands out most is War Ox’s varied vocal approach, which ranges from throaty cackled shouts and screams to a cleaner inflection that reminds (thinking of their New York home) of Keith Caputo during Life of Agony’s River Runs Red era. He’s high in the mix – almost nobody in New York knows how to properly mix doom – and sounds dry on “Benevolent Severity,” but like his voice itself, the levels of reverb and echo change throughout Abyssal Gigantism, coming on in effective layers over the thunder of “Ox Flu Zombie Apocalypse” and better placed all around on the Sleepily-riffed “Eriugena.” As a matter of preference, I tend to gravitate to God Ox’s shorter material – the extreme-sounding “Ox Flu Zombie Apocalypse” and more spacious “Pestilent Dogmata” – but the whispered growls, screams and abrasive catchiness of “Priest Infection” (7:02) have an appeal as well. The grunts and ticks of “The Ontological Argument for the Existence of Lord God Ox” tend to derail it, but even there, late in the album, God Ox are covering different musical ground with synth and cutting feedback, so there’s something to grasp onto.

I don’t doubt that War Ox’s vocals, presented as they are on Abyssal Gigantism, are going to be a divisive point for many listeners, but as he’s also driving the record conceptually, it’s something of a tradeoff. The work God Ox have put into their aesthetic comes through in listening, and the band are able to affect and control their atmospheres even just musically. This review has focused a lot on the vocals and lyrics, because they’re a central factor in understanding where the band is coming from, but it’s worth noting that the instrumental Oxen more than stand up to the sizable gauntlet thrown down by their vocal counterpart. Again, some are going to be turned off, but there’s plenty about God Ox worth digging into for anyone who enjoys the pitter-patter of giant cloven hooves.

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One Response to “Sin, Severity and God Ox’s Abyssal Gigantism

  1. romilar says:

    HI J.J., are you sure they are unsigned? I just read Auditory Essentials should be their label

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