X (Small Stone, 2005)
After a nearly four-year recording hiatus, OTIS returned with X in ’05. Contrary to Roman numerology, it was their fifth, not their tenth album—and their first for Small Stone, beginning a partnership that remains intact to this day. This record is known for its opener “Way I Feel,” which remained a live staple for several years, as well as the band’s triptastic take on Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher” and a solid “Liquid Jam” at the end. Of note, the album was recorded and co-mixed by Billy Anderson, who flew out to Toronto for the occasion. It also marks the recording debut of drummer Ryan Aubin, who’s been swinging the hammer of doom to this day.
“Way I Feel” gets us going, a slow, heavy, space-doom number that the band does so well. Ken drones over a pounding, pulsating backbeat for almost eight minutes of cosmic goodness, more of a fist-pounder than a head-banger, if you ask me. Speaking of introductions, second track “Relapse” is, amazingly, the leadoff track from debut EP Paid to Suffer, which hadn’t been reworked on any album beforehand. This one does seem a bit different; the backbone is intact, but we get some added effects to give it that extra level of trippiness. And man, those drums sound massive—as those who’ve seen the band can attest, Aubin pounds the skins pretty hard on an oversized kit.
“1303” is another heavy vegetable, a solid head-nodding rhythm accented with some vocal howls and screaming guitar effects. And like I said before, I really dig their version of “The Pusher,” a tune tailor-made for the psychedelic overdrive OTIS treatment. “Help Me” offers another brief, bluesy, little jam, this one with some solid 70’s-style riffage.
Things get a little lengthy at the end, the last two tracks taking up almost half of the album’s 55-minute run-time. “Eclipse” is a 10-and-a-half-minute exercise in drone, deep rumbling bass interspersed with occasional cymbal hits and some guitar effects that are given room to breathe initially—though we’re hit with a wave of heavy riffage a couple minutes in. Mind you, we’re still in super slow-mo here, with drums sounding like they were recorded on another planet. The proceedings take a gloomier tone around the 6:30 mark, notes ringing out menacingly over a pounding backbeat—but then it’s back into deep-space drone, where, I swear to Satan, there’s like a cello or something.
“Liquid Jam” takes the opposite approach, this 14-minute number maintaining a more traditional song structure—though this is a jam, after all. Taking the band’s signature Hendrix-meets-Vitus backbone, they explore the cosmic depths of doom for roughly a quarter-of-an-hour, leaving one no worse for wear at the end of the voyage. Gimme back my headtrips!