Ohbijou’s new album makes me think of ghosts and haunted iron mines.
The Toronto-based septet has been lauded for the homage paid to the city in which they live, with the lyrics of their previous albums showing their devotion. But in their third studio offering, Metal Meets, set to be released in September by Last Gang Entertainment (Metric, Crystal Castles, New Pornographers), Ohbijou steps outside of familiar boundaries, literally and figuratively.
With four out of the album’s eleven tracks named for places (“Niagara,” “Echo Bay,” “Sligo,” and “Turquoise Lake”) and one whose title refers to the Tagalog word for a native of the Philippines travelling abroad or residing permanently elsewhere (“Balikbayan”), this album is partly an exploration of the idea of journeying and the emotional impact of particular locations.
But while largely fuelled by travels to new places (Ohbijou drew inspiration from cabin retreats, travels across Asia, Europe, and North America while touring, and the idea of familial bloodlines across borders), Metal Meets is also a conceptual exploration of the hidden, dark, mysterious aspects of the earth itself and the secrets it holds.
The album title hangs like an unfinished thought, but one that invites the listener to dig deeper and find out the meaning at the core. The answer is another of the underlying themes of the album, that of the untold mysteries held in the depths of the human heart, running like veins of iron ore through rock. Their website describes their inspiration as being drawn from “rumbling volcanoes, deep lakes and haunted waterfalls, metals torn from damp earth and dark desires usually uncommitted to words.”
Metal Meets is an aural dreamscape, with lead vocalist Casey Mecija’s ethereal voice lending itself to the rising, otherworldly feel of the music; but as in dreams, there is a disquieting atmosphere present on tracks like “Sligo”: “Left you in Sligo / Hanging in the tree /Swaying with dead bodies / And rusted rosaries . . . ”
The first track, “Niagara,” starts off with metallic chimes reminiscent of mine axes ringing off the unyielding walls of deep, underground tunnels. And its ominous timbre, slow rhythmic beat and hauntingly poetic lyrics set the tone perfectly for the rest of the album: “You collapsed into iron arms / A bridge across it to desperate hearts /Fill this quiet, this poison cup . . . ”
Relationships can be hard, but this sentiment is captured perfectly and quite literally in the lyrics from “Iron and Ore”: “Your eyes are two dents with a rusty face from trying /My heart is solid ore that bends and shapes your iron feelings . . . ”
The title track is a faster-paced track using drums, violins, echoes, and delays to create an atmosphere of tense desire with an edge of something darker: “True one, we’ve only begun /I’ve gone to my room to consider you / Red heat sealing me / Know that I bleed blood / Metal meets /Oh . . . oh . . . oh . . . oh . . . oh . . . ”
Acknowledged as a thoughtful, experimental album, Ohbijou makes use of sound delays, reverbs, distortion, and an eclectic instrument gallery (glockenspiel, harpsichord, and ukulele are no strangers to their line-up from previous albums) to create a sound that is equal parts haunting and pensive.
Recorded at Montreal’s Breakglass Studios by acclaimed producer Jace Lasek (Besnard Lakes), Metal Meets is a departure from the band’s previous work in an attempt — according to their site bio — to test the limits of their musical capabilities. This attempt was a success. In this latest album, Ohbijou has created a standout work full of lyrical depth that mines the ore of human emotions and comes up with gold.
02. Echo Bay
04. Metal Meets
05. Iron and Ore
09. Scalpel Blade
10. Turquoise Lake
11. The Dreaming