If the adage “times flies when you’re having fun” has any sort of current validation then Oxford’s Desert Storm must be having quite a lot of fun as this is, almost unbelievably, their third album. Following a debut record, Forked Tongue (independent/self-released), that showed a huge amount of promise, a second album (Horizontal Life) (Blindsight) that pretty much said “yes, they know exactly what they are doing: more please”, the band’s bluesy, riff hungry, gnarlier-than-you take on southern influenced blues/sludge rock suggested a band with its heart and its head in deepest Missouri as opposed to the English home counties.
For this third album, the enigmatically titled Omniscient Masters (Blindsight), the word “experimentation” occasionally springs to mind, although, worry not, the departures are more nuanced than truly startling- they haven’t gone all One Direction on us, for example. Omniscient Masters is the sound of a band feeling like they need to stretch their creative legs a bit, whilst continuing to deliver slab after slab of riff-tastic blues rock.
To these ears, Omniscient Masters is an album that owes something of a creative debt to Orange Goblin. As any fool know, there’s not much wrong with that and so it proves on the splendid and splendidly titled ‘Collapse of the Bison Lung’ which is stirring and heavier than a lead and iron sandwich. You won’t need a post-graduate qualification to know what ‘Queen Reefer’ is all about and ‘Outlander’ is dirtier than a post festival wardrobe. So far, so familiar and so very welcome. There is a very Anglo-Saxon sense of humour running through ‘Nightbus Blues’ and its very recognisable tales of that 4am walk home from a session too far will doubtless be familiar to many readers although I’m less sure how well this translates to an international audience.
Those highlights apart, the rest of the album is not quite up to scratch and, as a long time watcher of the band, I worry that this is going to end up as a missed opportunity. Omnisicient Masters is good but it’s not great and I so wanted it to be great. I rate this band; they’ve got a certain something that is genuinely worth championing. I can’t help but think that with a bit more work and a producer like, say, Andy Sneap working with them, we would have had a little bit more judicious editing and a bit more forensic focus on the execution; as it stands, Omniscient Masters is ok when it should have been K.O. Plenty of credit for the experimentation, but points deducted for the execution; a veritable curate’s egg, then. If your curate is a metal head, of course.