Rainbows in the Dark: Ötzi — “Storm”

Post-punk is a genre that I’ve loved since before I knew what it was called, from back when my mom would play The Cure for me, to when I went through the obligatory Joy Division phase circa high school, to today, when a groovy bassline, chorused guitar and four-on-the-floor beat is enough to stir my soul.  Ötzi are a band that can take all the classic trappings of post-punk and throw them headfirst into the modern era with a healthy dose of radical attitude as they do on Storm.  This is Rainbows in the Dark, featuring the best of all things non-metal and metal adjacent.

Oakland’s Ötzi’s particular brand of post-punk is hefty on the punk side of things, and on Storm, the band’s sophomore release, they kick things up into a higher and more emotional gear than previously seen.  Bassist/vocalist Akiko Sampson says of Storm, “It’s a reflection of the lives we’ve lived as femmes in an often-hostile world. I think for all of the band members, we express all this mourning and anger through our music, so playing is always cathartic for us. But afterwards, what we’re left with is a sense of hope and a vision for what can be. In this album, we wanted to incorporate all of those emotions. Because that’s what Storm is about — huge, violent changes that leave you transformed forever.”  There certainly is a lot of anguish and anger in the way Sampson and co-lead vocalist/drummer Gina Marie deliver the dueling vocal melodies that are a signature of the band’s sound.  Backed up by hyper-melodic basslines and guitarist K. Dylan Edrich’s effect-driven, angular melodies, these songs ooze classic post-punk aesthetic (the whole album was even recorded and produced analog).  Despite that, there’s a lot here that will provide some pleasant surprises to those looking for a modern take on the tried-and-true format.  There’s an undeniable energy here that is very punk, in both lyrical theme and musical direction.

Arguably, Sampson’s basslines are the element that drives most of the songs on Storm forward.  Maybe it’s just me, but they jump out right away.  They’re very smartly crafted, both serving to propel the song forward and lock into Gina Marie’s tight grooves as well as provide the majority of the melody.  A perfect example of this is lead track and single “Moths,” demonstrating how a solid bassline can keep the melody and beat grounded when the drums start pounding and the guitars start swirling and the vocals start dueling with each other.  It’s a little chaotic, but 1.) that’s the point and 2.) it’s a controlled chaos.  Edrich’s guitars work to lend a deep sense of atmosphere and dissonance more than providing a riff or melody.  It’s where I find myself gathering most of the feeling and nuance from the songs.  Not that the guitars aren’t the stars of the show at all.  “Scorpio,” a punk driven anthem, features a jagged guitar line and thrashy pummeling of chords and drums in the chorus, kissed by saxophone bursts from brand new member Winter Zora.  Similarly, “Contagious” might be the punkiest song on the album, and also the most danceable, all thanks to the nimble drum work from Gina Marie.  Overall, there is a lot of depth to these songs without sacrificing the aesthetic of what makes them what they are: radical catharsis, an outpouring of emotion made manifest and a celebration of self-renewal.

Ötzi (photo courtesy of Kevin Brown)

“We look forward to being able to tour again, once it’s safe to. We miss being able to share our music, to see our audiences and tell them how important they are to us. We feel honored that we get to share space with so many queer and femme and trans people all over the world. Our shows have a radical energy because of our audience, and we crave that energy. We only hope that through our music we can help create a world where our audience feels honored and powerful themselves,” remarks Sampson.  I don’t think there’s a single musician in the world that doesn’t echo that sentiment, but it must suck especially hard to be part of a marginalized group and be missing out on the safe environments that let one be oneself.  Here’s to those spaces opening up safely sooner rather than later, but in the meantime, spin Storm a whole bunch.

– Ian

Storm is available now on Artoffact Records.  For more information on Ötzi, visit their Facebook page.

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