gig reviews

Oxygen Thief - Destroy It Yourself

By Hannah Spencer

Oxygen Thief

‘Destroy It Yourself’, the full-length debut from Bristol-based solo artist Oxygen Thief, is an album of much conviction and intensity channelled through a blend of raw, acoustic guitar metal riff-accompanied passionate singer songwriting. Frankly, ‘Destroy It Yourself’ is a well-written, well-constructed musical breath of fresh air somewhere balanced between noisy metal riffery and acoustic singer songwriting, but minus the bland!

Following ‘Show Em Who’s Boss’, an 18-second, computer-tweaked acoustic guitar introduction ridden with funny sounds and squelches, ‘Modesty Is Dead’ launches into the true Oxygen Thief blend; honest and intelligent lyrics accompanied by metal-like guitar riffs that are distinctively and unusually strummed out on a steel strung acoustic guitar. From this, the first song on the album, the sound is stripped bare to just acoustic guitar and honest, English, spoken-sung vocals reminiscent of Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke. ‘Modesty Is Dead’ then breaks out into a powerful instrumental whose dropped tuning sounds blatant metal influence with its extra depth of sound; ‘Mestle & Porter’ then immediately drives forward with urgency and fury. Far better than average, bland, acoustic guitar accompanied singer songwriters, Oxygen Thief’s guitar parts are varied, oozing with snippets of melody, juicy harmonies and variety; strummed contrasted with picked sections and noisy, thick textured sections contrasted with suspense-ridden calm, and all performed with utmost accuracy.

‘Terry Nutkins Salute’ continues with the established honest and intelligent, storytelling lyrics a la Get Cape Wear Cape Fly complete with a catchy stop chorus line “Accidents don’t happen they are caused”. Again, the variety in the vocal line reflects the well-written, well-developed guitar lines; Barry Dolan, who has performed under the name of Oxygen Thief since 2006, varies his passionate vocals between singing, speaking, whispering and, in contrast, aggressively shouting, and with his sound completely blows the gentle folk leanings of acoustic singer songwriter entirely out of the water. With its anxious, choppy chorus and charging verses, ‘Camera Shy’ is one of the strongest, most metal tracks on the album and, alongside occasional interceptions of more complex rhythms, also features hints of subtle guitar body percussion. Its anxious, robotic, repeated chorus of “We are not here, we cannot see, we have no eyes, just LCDs” then dies out to solo picked guitar chords and then out to nothing.

In a slight change of gear, ‘Words On Walls’ hosts a more punk-tinged blend with an extended chugging and charging instrumental break, ridden with suspensions and uncomfortable harmonies, then breaking down to nothing before returning with a contrasting fuller and more light hearted sound which combines drums, synths, glockenspiel, whistling and clarinets. Fuller instrumentation and computer tweaking only make slight appearances on ‘Destroy It Yourself’; this and instrumental track ‘Makoto Nagano’, for example. Through to the albums’ conclusion, however, there’s a brighter kind of foot-tapping vibe to the multi-tracked strummed guitar parts which are then joined by electric guitar, string parts, clapping and interweaving multi-tracked vocals which build layer by layer to a busier, multi-layered climax to the album with a catchy beat throughout.

A distinctive sound with plenty of variety to keep the listener on their toes, Oxygen Thief is well worth a listen.

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