There’s a band from Oakland, California that goes by the name of Owl, and they play 70s-inspired music that pulls influences from the NWOBHM, psychedelic music, stoner, rock, and even some prog. This coming February 17th will see Owl release Geomancy, and it will be our main topic for discussion today.
According to the History tab on owlbrotherhood.net …
“Owl was originally hatched in 2007, when the youngest Baechle brother, Axell, sprang from an egg (aged 13 years already and with a Gibson Les Paul in his hands) and began to compose original songs in the style of classic heavy metal. The middle brother K, disturbed by his book by the noise, soon decided to join in, adding his Fender Stratocaster, supernatural songwriting, composition, and vocal skills to the mix. The Holy Trinity finally came together at Christmas 2009, when oldest brother Clint was summoned away from a three-month tour with some other band.”
After a few bass player changes over the years, they now have Jamie Sanitate providing their low-end rumblings.
I was unaware of Owl when I received the promo for Geomancy, so I went back to check out their 2014 full-length album, Screech. I found a nice mix of Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Budgie, Iron Maiden, and Rush with psychedelic interludes that added dynamics and flavor and helped tie together all the other elements in those songs. I’d pick that album’s “Atlantean Key” as the track that best exhibits what I’m talking about here.
Geomancy is basically the follow-up to Screech, as they only released a two-track single between the two. As I began listening to the first track, “Awaken the Mountain,” I noticed a big change in sound. Screech was very 70s rock sounding in the tones they achieved, while Geomancy seemed to be larger and fuzzier. I enjoy the tones, but I will add that I liked the sound of Screech a bit more.
Of the first three tracks, I’d pick “Pyramid Builder” as my favorite. The intro has a psych flavor, with the guitars playing together interestingly. Once the riff picks up, there seems to be a Pentagram vibe, something that I didn’t really hear on Screech. That feel carries into the first verse, where we get some superb backing vocals that go much higher at times than I expected to hear. These apply a Rob Halford sound that adds so much to the spots where it hits, and they pop up again during the last verse, while the second verse’s backing vox are lower register oohs and aahs. That final riff rocks and the harmony guitars over it are very Thin Lizzy sounding.
Another track I loved is “Jupiterean Ocean,” whose title immediately reminded me of the “Atlantean Key” track from the last album.
The intro is put together in such a way that as it builds upon itself, so does a sense of increasing anticipation. A fleet-fingered riff drops in, and the song takes on a prog feel that eventually leads into a pedaling riff that is quite catchy. The intensity keeps getting higher and higher, and at times there is a Led Zeppelin influence to be heard. I love Zeppelin, so to hear bands pulling from them in 2023 is a big deal. This track ends up being 5 minutes and 32 seconds of instrumental excellence and is my pick for best of the record.
“Ghost Lanes” was heavy metal with a bit of prog stylings and is one of, if not THE heaviest song on Geomancy.
The riffs here are classic metal, yet the intro dips its toes into progressive psych while the drums are thundering across the toms underneath. Oddly enough, I detected a Mastodon vibe when the first verse began; this was another thing I hadn’t expected from Owl.
Just around the 2:45 mark, the riffs and vocals both increase their power, with the guitars eventually hitting the heaviest and most Black Sabbath-influenced riffs of the song.
“Floating Mountain” began with some Thin Lizzy meets Iron Maiden meets Judas Priest dual guitar harmonies, but that didn’t last long as the song changed drastically before the first verse. When the verse began, it felt like a lost Jimi Hendrix track, primarily due to the vocal approach but also because of the guitars a bit. Two minutes in, we get hit with a short but very sweet lead guitar piece, which I wish had been a bit longer as it sounded great.
The track brings back those harmonies but adds in many other fantastic pieces before hitting its final notes, even employing a Danzig-styled vocal over a punk-flavored riff before the last guitar solo.
While Geomancy and Screech came from the same band, they are much different from each other in many ways. Geomancy is more of a classic heavy metal record, while Screech was an NWOBHM-influenced record with more progressive psych elements. Owl shows a lot of evolution in Geomancy and proves that you shouldn’t expect them to be just one thing.
Geomancy releases on February 17th and preorders are live on their Bandcamp page. So, head over to check out their music and play it loudly. Enjoy!!!
This review was written by Tom Hanno, who has been writing reviews for the last 7 years but has been sharing his love of music for the majority of his life. Originally starting out at the now defunct Chimera Magazine, he is currently contributing to Doomed and Stoned, The Sleeping Shaman, The Doom Charts, Tom’s Reviews, and The Third Eye. Read more of Tom’s reviews by checking out his Linktree.