Chicago’s OHPEN AHRMS worships at the altar of heavy progressive rock and 1980s/’90s album-oriented rock romanticisms. Songs inspired by canonical riffing and post-rock noise feature winding layers of guitars, synths, and vocal harmonies that emerge through a landscape of metal, arena-rock, and shoegaze influences.
Both the band’s moniker, OHPEN AHRMS, and their debut album Lying Beside You are in reference to Escape, the classic 1981 Journey album. Lying Beside You was driven by post-pandemic exploration in 2021, as Alan Strathmann (guitar/vocals/synths) and Quinn Curren (drums/percussion) – both of Chicago’s purveyors of melodic doomgaze Starless – began fleshing out songs with Sam Ross (guitar/vocals), and later recruited Sheldon Kessel (keys/organ) and Andy Wulf (bass) to arrive at a lineup.
Thematically, OHPEN AHRMS sings about morality, trauma, spirituality, and mental well-being, examining from their corner of the world, times complicated by tension and conflict. The lyrics look with melancholy at the futility of grand and ill-informed action. A parable, and a warning: we may never be able to look at things with shared clarity or belief; we are woefully unprepared to deal with the universe, or – despite our best efforts – witness anything but our own guaranteed destruction.
“The isolation of the pandemic made me pretty introspective,” reveals Strathmann, “And the moments of inspiration were also pretty messed up, and fearful. I imagine songs on Lying Beside You as a kind of fantastical autofiction, focusing on very specific ideas like the societal conception of evil or the language of war and of suicide pacts… but also as a processing on the way back to things from my past. Not just to pre pandemic times – being in a band writing music – but also to what feels like a much more distant and liberated place. I think that’s why I was thinking about Escape, and the impact of bands and albums that changed me early on. Among those inspirations the lyric ‘Lying beside you’ stood out to me – of course the play on words – as a way of putting our voices alongside all others, even as unreliable narrators – but also big sounding, layered rock worked as a way of helping me put all of these things in a box.”
Lying Beside You was recorded throughout 2021-2023 at Narwhal Studios and Hypercube Studios and engineered by Sanford Parker. The record includes guest contributions from Ian Richter (bass), Evan Dale (bass), and Jennifer Lee Dumont (flute and sax).
“Don’t Look For Me There,” the lead single from Lying Beside You, is a Bolero-esque overture that opens with a wall of fuzzed-guitars and organ, blends with hypnotic harmonies, and ultimately builds to a breaking point.
Strathmann elaborates, “The music came first as it often does. A riff and a progression that was psychedelic, and kind of dreamy and sad, yet heavy and powerful at the same time. ‘Don’t Look For Me There’ is sort of equal parts lamenting our obsession with details while refusing to look at the larger picture, and my own processing of the dissolving of intimate relationships. There are moments where the need for superiority or ‘winning’ drives connection into the ground, where control or the idea of it overshadows direction or even intention. It’s not that the thought is so unique or original: that we (people) are so out of control that we think we’re running the show. But writing about it helped me to see how it has affected me personally.”
Lying Beside You Track Listing:
- Lying Beside You
- Make Me A Ghost
- Spun In The Dark
- Don’t Look For Me There
- Drawing Fire
- Night Vision