When it comes to Canadian stoner/doom stalwarts, two names come to mind: Sheavy, the pride of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Toronto’s own Sons of OTIS. The latter is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year; in fact, this coming Friday at the Bovine Sex Club, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to dive into their back catalogue…
Paid to Suffer (indie, 1994)
This is where it all started, right here. OTIS, who had yet to add the “Sons of” at this point, self-released their debut EP sometime in the mid 90’s—I’ve heard either ’93 or ’94. A couple tunes from this one, namely “Nothing” and “Windows,” would find their way onto later releases Spacejumbofudge and Temple Ball, but the other four tracks would remain buried until British label Totem Cat reissued this record last year. (It’s apparently still available on vinyl…)
The 31-minute EP opens with “Relapse,” a straight-forward stomper with Ken’s trademark sneer rising slightly above the mix. There might not be a wide variety of riffs on this one, but that repetitive doomy riff we do get really gets the head noddin’, and the one at the end is rather hypnotic, too. “Nothing” also starts off slow and steady, rolling like a wave of gritty riffage. More vocal venom pours out over a pounding backbeat, the refrain “I live my life a different way” searing into your skull.
“Windows” is, in many ways, the band’s signature song. (Hell, they even made a music video!) This slow, heavy-roller features some seriously freaky psychedelic riffage interspersed with laid-back, droning vocals and at least a couple decent drum fills. Man, this tune’s so trippy, they felt the need to stick it on both Spacejumbofudge AND Temple Ball, though the version on here has more in common with the former than the latter’s 10-minute “Windows Jam,” ending on an eerie, menacing note with pounding drums.
“Pain” starts off with wailing feedback coming from what almost sounds like a stringed instrument (but is probably just some guitar effect), then picks up the pace, a rollicking instrumental with that far-out guitar sound, which still gets slow ‘n heavy in all the right spots. “Beware” opens in similar fashion, with that distorted cello effect, only this one slows things down from there, incorporating that opening riff into its doomy dirge. The song slows to a stop around the halfway mark, and we’re left with a few ringing notes before the “cello effect” makes its return for a couple measures—then it’s back into the doom. The closing number, “Drone,” continues where the last two left off, a two-minute instrumental that puts an ellipses on the end of the album. Twas an interesting start to their career, though the best was clearly yet to come.