Sons Of Otis:
Ken Baluke: Guitar & Vox
Frank Sargeant: Bass
Ryan Aubin: Drums
Recorded By Greg Dawson @ BWC Studios.
Mastered by Chris Goosman @ Baseline Audio Labs.
Produced by Ken & Greg Art by Ox & Joey Toscano.
Personally, I believe that the bands debut 'SpaceJumboFudge' is still a very underrated album. At that time in 1996 there was no other band around comparable to Canadian's SONS OF OTIS. Well, there was nothing new about mixing different influences like sludge, doom and blues together, but they've combined it with a massive, interstellar, spectacular sound what was really innovative. Whenever I listen to 'SpaceJumboFudge' I feel like an astronaut who has been drifting through space in his shuttle for decades. Shortly afterwards, the band strengthen their blues and doom foundation on the second album 'Temple Ball' and didn't leave that path since 1999. 'Exiled', consisting of 6 songs, is the fifth album, released in 2009 by Small Stone Records, and a perfect continuation of the band's overpowering heavy sound. 'Haters' is a surprisingly viscous and sinister beginning, where SONS OF OTIS prove once more that their music can be as dark as their name. On the contrary, there are hard rocking tracks like 'Lost Soul' or the excellent cover versions of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Bad Man' and Motörhead's 'Iron Horse'.
Once again, it's exciting to hear those songs after they've undergone a special OTIS treatment. 'Oxazejam' is a wonderful blues-infected instrumental. Only one word can adequately describe Ken Baluke's guitar sound: Huge. This is like a three-dimensional experience, but his signature vocal delivery shouldn't go unnoticed. 'Tales Of Otis' is reminiscent of mid-period Saint Vitus, and if you're aware of their discography it comes as no real surprise. By the way, SONS OF OTIS has more in common with that highly influential band than some of the newer doom outfits, but there are people around who like to ignore that fact. 'Exiled' includes a hidden bonus cut, entitled 'The Horror' that is very different from the other songs of the album. SONS OF OTIS explore the territories of ambient music without losing their heaviness and even here they're absolutely convincing. I'm not sure, but I could imagine that 'The Horror' has been taken from Ken Baluke's experimental ambient project OX. In conclusion, 'Exiled' turned out stronger than it's predecessor 'X', and if you like SONS OF OTIS as much as I do than you should buy this album as soon as possible.
Since 1992, Sons of Otis have been recording in what is in my opinion some of the worlds best dirging cosmic doom blues known to man. Sons of Otis will be holding their CD release party in Toronto, Canada on June 13th with Electric Magma opening for them along with Keef and Skull and I figured this would be a good time to review their latest album "Exiled", which happens to mark 15 years since the release of their first EP released when the band was simply known as Otis. Sons of Otis have been on some of the worlds best stoner rock labels including Mans Ruin and seeing their latest release to be their second time with Small Stone. Fans of the likes of Acid King, Goatsnake, UFOMammut and others I would hope know of this amazing band. I have yet to hear a more psychedelic form of stoner doom. Blues has always been a staple in Sons of Otis' sound, and it only gets stronger with every release. Oxazejam truly would be the rule. the song first appeared on their split with Queen Elephantine, but has been re-issued on Exiled. A jam that shows us that the blues will never die, and will always have its place in metal. The best thing I have to say about Sons of Otis is that they seem to build upon their sound with every release where most bands grow stale or change their direction. This album is keeping true to everything Otis has ever done has reached what I believe to be their best outing, and somehow manages to be heavier than anything they have done to date. When "Tales of Otis" kicks into gear with its menacing droning doom atmosphere, you will see what I mean. Exiled is a work of art that will please many fans of slow dirging music ranging from stoner doom to slow psychedelic blues, droning doom to a kick ass version of Motor heads Iron Horse. If you haven't picked up a copy of Exiled, I suggest you do so now and own a piece of what may be arguably Canada's best heavy metal group.
Derek Edward Kellington
Formerly OTIS are back on SMALL STONE, yes they are named after the character from HENRY :PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (played by Tom Towles) if anyone wonders what the hack the name means. In their earlier days they also had been a part of the genre loved MAN'S RUIN company, just to add this fact here. Six tracks sixty minutes this speaks for long, monotone monster tracks, and yes this is a fact. Low tuned chords, gloomy atmosphere, chanting vocals that preach the world downfall are some impressions that are induced by the first HATERS. Massive drumbeats versus quiet spell cursing vox crown the a bit drugish (if that word even exists) LOST SOUL. BAD MAN is almost up-tempo like, massive riffs crown this one. The two epic instrumentals OXAZEJAM and TALES OF OTIS take us to the very own interpretation of MOTÖRHEADS IRON HORSE, very slow and very OTIS like and very convincing. The two none vocal tracks are full of wah-wah sounds, chilly hypnotic tones and TALES OF OTIS repeats the same riff over and over again until you're nearly in trance. The sound is a bit muffled, but for this music it fits perfect.
- Thomas Schubert
Sons of Otis have been churning out doom-laden space rock from Toronto for almost 17 years. They crawled their way through the guts of three different record companies, each one succumbing to some fatal ailment in their wake before landing on heavy rock label Small Stone with ‘X’, their 2005 return to form.
Now they’re back with ‘Exiled’, and once again the band is on a monolithic trudge to the boundaries of outer space.
The Sons have already got their glacial thunder riffs down more or less pat, so you know what you’re getting from song No. 1: Frank Sargeant’s slumbering bass line gives way to titanic chords that trudge forth from some black hole of doom, mainman Ken Bluke’s vocal growl echoes out from the shadowy depths and Ryan Aubin hammers his cymbals and bass drum keep pace with the heartbeat of a very lethargic titan.
That said, the 10-minutes opuses Sons of Otis favour don’t ever devolve to the level of Sunn0)))’s drones – they’re more like Monster Magnet after several hours of Quaalude abuse.
They do pick up the pace a smidgen for covers of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Motorhead (‘Bad Man’ and ‘Iron Horse’).
While 'Exiled' isn’t quite up to the standard of the epic ‘Spacejumbofudge’, it’s in close orbit and deserves a listen to anyone who likes to bang their head at a very slow nod.
- Andrew Carver
When sitting around pondering the vagaries of heavy metal history, I often wonder what Black Sabbath would’ve sounded like had Ozzy been dropping acid instead of imbibing furniture varnish. Sons of Otis makes that fantasy come true on Exiled, the Canadian power trio’s sixth album. Tunes like Lost Soul, Haters and Tales of Otis sound like Hawkwind records slowed down to 16 rpm, or the first Sabbath album if it was recorded in the Crab Nebulae instead of some Midlands castle full of surly ghosts. Spacey guitars pound, wandering bass pounds and the drums, hell, you already know. The vocals are a weak point, but there’s so few of them it hardly matters. What does count is the stoned cosmic groove, cleaning out your ear canals like lava flowing from a crack in a downed meteor. Tripped-out doom glaze for armchair cosmonauts.
- Michael Toland
Fucking wow. My cerebral cortex is melting in a cranial orgasm of riff-based space sludge. Stoners everywhere - buy this. Toronto based trio Sons Of Otis have been jamming around since 1992, and in that time have put out a stash of fabulous tripped-out tortoise-tempo albums. This is their new one, and it smokes like Cheech and Chong in a hydroponic basement of purest green.
Kicking off with 'Haters', a ten and a half minute grand psychedelic sludge opus which encapsulates the sound of a huge retarded slug deity crushing buildings and shitting out rivers of slime, this is an album that screams out "play me as loud as you can get away with before the killjoy neighbours come knocking". 'Lost Soul' follows in similar exhilarating fashion - a ploddingly dense and cleverly simple riff from mainman Ken Baluke (a veritable and criminally unsung axe hero), stretched out and melted under psychotic triumph of the will; Frank Sargeant's dirty low low low end bass grinding and twisting underneath; Ryan Aubin's drums as crisp and as hard hit as a resurrected Bonzo on steroids, all topped off with Ken's far away and fuzzed out vocals, slightly reminiscent of Mark Arm from Mudhoney (which is a very good thing indeed).
'Bad Man' is a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover that shows you can play extremely slow and still rock out with real fuckin' swagger (as Weedeater also ably demonstrate). 'Oxazejam' is what I used to imagine the Grateful Dead (apart from the excellent 'Live/Dead') would sound like when I was a boy, before I heard their disappointingly lame country jams – soaring and impossibly stoned free-form super-distorted psychedelic rock that is so wild you don't even need to have taken anything to feel fucked.
'Tales Of Otis' kicks out a drop dead heavy semi-tone descending sludge riff that is occasionally cushioned with trippy space noise, and last track, 'Iron Horse - The Horror' is a ripping down tempo cover of one of my very favourite Motorhead songs (first album), which fades into an oddly soothing ten minute wash of bizarre guitar noise interspersed with samples of screaming women probably having unspeakable things done to them (presumably 'The Horror').
'Exiled' is very heavy and very slow - think Jimi Hendrix, John Bonham and Dave 'Dixie' Collins out of Weedeater, all blitzed on authentic sixties hashish and LSD, driving a chrome juggernaut, loaded with lead, at exactly one mile per hour, on an eternal desert highway, towards a burning sun. Then you're getting close.
Like a comet on its long orbit, well beyond the edge of the solar system, Canadian space cadets, Sons of Otis, have settled into a somewhat lengthy (but reliable) time-span of four years between visits to planet Earth, and 2009 sees them returning, right on schedule, with their fifth long-player, Exiled. Unlike prior LPs, however, this one combines newly penned material with a few spare parts, ranging from a pair of tracks transmitted in 2007 for a split EP with Queen Elephantine, to a tandem of surprising cover versions. Looking at the fresh originals first: Exiled's ten-minute opener, "Haters,", won't alter any pre-existing opinions -- positive or negative -- about the trio's hypnotic brand of stoner sludge rock with its exceedingly repetitive doom uniformity; but then, neither will its nearly-as-long, yet gobsmackingly awesome follow-up, "Lost Soul," featuring ter-riff-ic dynamic gyrations that will undoubtedly start heads a-nodding immediately and enthusiastically. Both of the older originals deliver somewhere in between these qualitative extremes, with the instrumental "Oxazejam" pulsing like a quasar agonizing in its dying spasms, while the much darker and foreboding "Tales of Otis" simply hurls listeners into the eye of the black hole, their very atoms disintegrating as they fall. Finally, both cover versions leave strong impressions -- if only for subjecting Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Bad Man" to the lysergic Otis blueprint, then dragging Motorhead's already slothful (by Motorhead standards, anyway) "Iron Horse" through a swamp of distortion so deep, not even Lemmy might recognize it. The latter eventually gives way to an extended bout of feedback, very aptly named (for many different reasons) "The Horror," and thus concludes this particular Sons of Otis flyby, leaving as many divided opinions as ever, but also plenty of superlative pace sludge for their converts to enjoy. May the Force be with them!
- Eduardo Rivadavia
Toronto’s most righteously stoned doomers Sons of Otis are back with six more droned-out, smoke-filled anthems of echoplexed dissatisfaction. Exiled is the band’s fifth album — second for Small Stone after both Man’s Ruin and The Music Cartel collapsed following Otis releases (they’re just that heavy) — and after reading Arzgarth’s review on Stonerrock.com the other day, I figured I’d chime in with one of my own. You know, just to make the world complete.
By way of preface, I have a great respect for Arz and his status in the stoner scene is unquestionable. He does very, very good work with unwavering dedication. Exiled he categorized as starting off strong but ultimately losing his interest as the band drifted “off into their own realm (or even further into it).” All well and good — and nine-minute dronefest “Tales of Otis” certainly is a mountain to climb — but I think there’s more at hand here than just the album getting boring as it plods onward.
Consider the following track listing for Exiled: Get it? Turn to stone? Ah never mind.
1. Haters (10:35)
2. Lost Soul (6:36)
3. Bad Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd cover) (5:03)
4. Oxazejam (9:56)
5. Tales of Otis (9:03)
6. Iron Horse (Motörhead cover)/The Horror (secret track) (18:43)
This is how the album is presented in its original form. “Haters” is a strong, doomy opener; “Lost Soul” an appropriately rocking, much shorter and somewhat quicker follow-up; “Bad Man” also lacking a bit of the chunder the band can harness at their slowest, but still rocking; “Oxazejam” exactly what it says it is — a jam belonging to guitarist Ken “Ox” Baluke — and an expansive one at that; “Tales of Otis,” as mentioned, a dronefest; “Iron Horse” packing in some last-minute THC jamming before “The Horror” takes over and provides a noisy ending.
My theory is that what bored Arzgarth wasn’t the songs themselves, but rather their placement. The structure of the album. Exiled, like any respectable slab of drone-heavy stoner doom, is going to test the patience of the listener. Sometimes albums are flat-out hard to get through, and Sons of Otis are no strangers to that. If they wanted to be accessible, they might not have taken their name from one of the characters in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
That said, with “Tales of Otis” being the mighty monsterpiece it is, I’d move the song up on the list and make it earlier in the album, so that the instant reaction isn’t, “Boy I’m tired, I think I’ll go get a sandwich,” but rather, “Holy shit, this crushes!” And indeed it does.
Likewise, “Bad Man” should go further toward the end, to provide a boost to get everyone over to the end in “Iron Horse.” “The Horror” was a sticking point for the esteemed SR.com editor as well, but since it’s just noise and it’s basically a secret track, it’s easy enough to skip for those who wouldn’t tolerate it, so we’ll leave it where it is with this fantasy reconstruction.
Here’s the revised track list:
1. Haters (10:35)
2. Lost Soul (6:36)
3. Tales of Otis (9:03)
4. Oxazejam (9:56)
5. Bad Man (5:03)
6. Iron Horse/The Horror (18:43)
This way, the killer opening is preserved, the next two tracks provide a thunderous, meaty centerpiece, working off each other with what I feel is a better flow than they had originally. The same goes for the transition from “Bad Man” into “Iron Horse,” the only drawback being the two covers are next to each other and might be seen as being tacked on like the band ran out of original material. Something tells me with a leadoff track called “Haters” though, Sons of Otis aren’t too worried about what people think of them.
So there you have it. Of course, this is all moot because Exiled has been released with the original tracklisting, but for those of you with iPods or sundry other shuffle-ready listening devices, check it out and see if you don’t agree.
- JJ Koczan
To be honest, I listen to Sons of Otis about as often as they record and release albums. I like 'em well enough, but I can't say I've ever really thought, “Well goddamn, I need to listen to these guys again.”
In a perfect world, I'd follow that statement with “Exiled, the latest from these drugged out Canadians, changes that,” but that wouldn't be entirely true. I do think the album is on par with their past work and, even better, it starts off like a house on fire. “Haters” is a ten minute slab of psychedelic quicksand that could very be the most aggressive song the band's ever unleashed. I'm used to the doom-slow riffs and the diabolical, echoplex soaked vocals, but I never expected Sons of Otis to sound quite so pissed off about it. “Lost Soul,” the second track, doesn't have the same mean-spirited nature, but man alive does it lay down a fierce groove, the sort that the band's been dishing out left and right since they first lumbered on the scene.
From there, the band sort of drifts off into their own realm (or even further into it). “Bad Man” sounds practically conventional (even more so than their cover of Motorhead's “Iron Cross,” which closes out Exiled). “Oxazejam” and “Tales of Otis,” previously from the band's split with Queen Elephantine, offer a meandering, low key jam and a drone-like pummeling, respectively. When I reviewed that split, I favored “Oxazejam,” but this time around I'm gravitating more to the black hole density that's “Tales of Otis.”
What serves as a buzz kill is “The Horror,” a long winded romp through ambient nonsense that follows “Iron Horse.” I'm used to Sons of Otis taking their time to get to the point, but in this case they have nowhere to go. It's not a deal breaker, just an unnecessary extra bit. Still, like their other albums, Exiled won't be worn down from constant spins, but it serves as a solid reminder that there's still plenty of life left to Sons of Otis.
- John Pegoraro