Beyond the palm trees, immaculate store fronts, spectacular sunset vistas, and a general sense of opulence that Los Angeles projects to the wider world, beats a much darker heart in a city that is still reeling in post-pandemic chaos. Crime, homelessness, drug addiction, and many such social malaises point to a much more unsettled and disturbing reality. It is often said that it is in the art that a location produces, therefore, that we find an accurate portrayal of the true lived experience shared by millions of people in a city that seems each day to resemble more and more that of John Wagner’s dystopian vision of Mega-City.
One band that perhaps exemplifies this more than most is the pulverizing, post-metal four-piece, O ZORN!. Hailing from Long Beach, California, the band is led by enigmatic frontman Bill Kielty, a charismatic and confident performer that sits somewhere between Rob Zombie and James Hetfield in his delivery, and is completed by the exceptional guitar talents of Justin Suitor, the rolling thunder of bassist Justin Morales, and powerhouse drummer Derek Eglit. Together the O ZORN! collective creates the unmistakable, thumping groove that has begun to capture the hearts and minds of metal fans throughout the scene since the band was first breathed into existence in 2013.
O ZORN! has been through considerable trials and tribulations since their last album, Your Killer, was released in March 20th, 2020. Hailed Kerrang! Magazine of the release, “Sludge-drenched post-metal is not the rarest of commodities in the dankest parts of the underground, but O ZORN! manages to sound quite unlike anyone else. Bill Kielty’s rasping bark adds a hardcore edge to even the more ambient moments, and those layered passages are surrounded by harder metallic grooves.” Dead Rhetoric wrote “O ZORN! set out to create a record of pure aggression where one thing holds true: The Riff is always King.” V134 concurred “Your Killer is a punch to the gut with plenty of charisma, power, and groove to keep you hooked.”
Not only dealing with the realities of distributing, promoting, and performing music in a world shaken by an unprecedented global pandemic, drug addiction, mental illness, and deeply personal loses of friends and family would cast doubt over the tenability of the band, forcing them to regroup and rethink their future. Undeterred by whatever acts of universal misfortune that might have manifested, the band decamped to Candor Studios in Tampa Florida, to do the only thing they know how, and distil the experiences of the prior two years into a musical body of work that reflects a much more mature and focused overall direction: Vermillion Haze.
The eight-track Vermillion Haze was overseen by producer Ryan Boesch (Whores, Andrew WK, Tomahawk, The Eels), and showcases a more melodic vocal approach from Kielty, with an extra emphasis on memorable choruses that compliment some of the record’s heavy themes.
Songs such as the first single, “Never Saw It Coming,” deal with the loss of a longtime friend who was unable to overcome the guilt and grief of losing two family members to COVID-19 within days of each other.
Kielty further elaborates, “A coworker and someone I considered a close friend, took his own life during the pandemic. Outside of work, we lived in different worlds, and only knew of him what he shared in the workplace. Which is common in life. We all have relationships outside of our immediate circle, but when you spend eight to ten hours a day with someone for years, one would think you’d have a good sense of who that person is in life. When I got the awful call informing of his death, I was grief stricken. I literally felt as though I lost a brother. In the days to follow, during which I was searching for more information as to what happened and why, many of his immediate friends and family members divulged that he had suffered from a serious mental illness as a child and would rear its ugly head from time to time as an adult. This I could somewhat grasp, as from time to time I’d witness some odd behavior, but he was a bit of a savant, so I chalked it up to just being a bit of a weirdo. The real blow came when it was revealed to me that he had been smoking meth in the months leading up to his death and was having psychotic breaks. Paranoid, hearing voices, seeing things and run-ins with the law. I had no clue the gravity of his situation, but everyone else seemed to.”
Vermillion Haze Track Listing:
- Slow Mood
- Never Saw It Coming
- I See Through You
- New Suffer
- I Got Mine
- Cloud None