EP Review: Oscillate – Skepticism

Oscillate cover
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I first met Conor Coleman – the man behind Oscillate –  when he was drumming for now-defunct local band As Legends Rise. We had a lot in common: we’re both drummers, we both work in teaching roles, and we have some similar tastes in music. I remember one time we were at a Datsuns gig at San Fran and he got concussed somehow. I was pretty worried for him, but in typical Conor style he just laughed it off.

Conor was at my flat getting a home-job tattoo from my flatmate (he got two: a bear on his chest, and a zombie skull on his shoulder) when he introduced me to djent – technical metal with focus on angular syncopated riffs. When he asked me to check out one of his side projects I expected something along those lines, something heavy and influenced by bands like Periphery and The Contortionist.

And it is. Music that Conor has released under the guise of Oscillate is undeniably djent-y. But I was impressed that the music is also far more multifaceted than that.

Most of it is tight and technical progressive metal with complex rhythms. But there are some more tender moments as well. I love the twinkling piano parts in ‘Skepticism’. ‘I Slept Through The Noise…’ has some enormous sounding ephemeral interludes. ‘And I Dreamt’ is a brilliant dreamy track with an electric drumbeat reminiscent of triphop music like Massive Attack. It has tender piano and reverberating guitar that makes you forget that you were listening to articulate metal riffing a minute beforehand.

I asked Conor about a sample of Tommy Lee Jones talking in the film No Country for Old Men. He told me that he chose it in part because he loved the movie, and because it explored how he felt at the time of recording, seemingly stuck with limited options forward. Themes of existentialism and inevitability run throughout the EP, like the musical equivalent of The Matrix (not that there are any lyrics to show this).

Cloudkicker is the most similar act that I can think of – a one-man post-metal project. Other similar sounding bands include Northlane, Dumbsaint and Russian Circles. That’s no small achievement for a 21-year-old solo musician. Conor has proven himself as more than just a metal drummer. This Oscillate EP shows off his skills as a multi-instrumentalist and composer, and reveals great potential for more to come.

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