Ossuary returns to keep feeding on the filth

The Madison-formed death-metal outfit plays July 2 at The Bur Oak with Tubal Cain, Ruin Dweller, and DJ Heavy Eye.
The three members of the band Ossuary are shown posing in a black-and-white publicity photo, standing in front of a field of tall grass and facing the camera.
Ossuary’s members, from left to right: Nick Johnson, Izzi Plunkett, and Matt Jacobs.

The Madison-formed death-metal outfit plays July 2 at The Bur Oak with Tubal Cain, Ruin Dweller, and DJ Heavy Eye.

The death-metal trio Ossuary—playing Sunday, July 2 at The Bur Oak—turn austerity into forbidding atmosphere. Since the band formed in Madison, they’ve released two EPs: 2015’s Cremation Ritual and 2019’s Supreme Degradation. Both live up to their titles, dragging the listener into a hellish vortex. Cremation Ritual‘s opening track, “Retributive Maiming,” loses none of its impact on the nth listen: Izzi Plunkett’s biting guitar figures and cavernous growls combine with Matt Jacobs’ bass and Nick Johnson’s drums to balance the fractured lurch of death metal with doom-y swing. They create powerful grooves together, and know how to flex them to grisly effect. “Bestial Triumph” (from Supreme Degradation) changes up its rhythmic feel several times, always coated in the wet wretch of Plunkett’s standout vocal performance. The song’s shift from double-kick hell to lumbering churn is graceful like a gravitational slingshot, and just as likely to strain your blood vessels. 

Even at its sludgiest, scuzziest moments (including the opening of Supreme Degradation‘s title track), Ossuary’s music keeps up a bracing tension. It’s as if the band’s members are drilling their way through a slurry of mucus and ash. It’s all about sticking to the core elements and letting them breathe, and songwriting that matches creativity with relentless force. It’s the kind of heavy music that feeds on its own enveloping depravity and despair.

This will be the band’s first show in Madison since the start of the pandemic, and one of only a handful since Ossuary played a metal festival in Mexico in March 2020, right before the shit hit the fan. “We took an unplanned hiatus after the pandemic hit,” Plunkett says. Since then, Plunkett has moved back to her native Vermont—and plans to stay there, while making it back to Madison regularly to practice and write with Johnson and Jacobs. The band will be playing some new songs at this show. Two of those and a cover will make up a forthcoming release. 

Between COVID and the distance, the three didn’t play together for more than a year. When they finally got back together in August 2021, they found their ferocious chemistry still intact. “Seeing how easy it was for us to just pick right up where we left off was a relief and a big boost of ‘we can do this shit’—there’s always that silly anxious thought of like ‘what if I forgot how to do this’ when you don’t play for a while,” Plunkett says. “But minus the 1,000-mile (each way) travel to get to Madison to practice, it was pretty effortless to get back in the swing.” They’ll be taking that bottled-up momentum on the road this summer, first in the States and then Europe, culminating with a set at the Kill-Town Death Fest in Copenhagen.

Though the members are more spread out now geographically, the lineup at this upcoming show feels unmistakably like a warm homecoming. (It’s the exact same lineup of bands that played a May 2019 show at the now-closed Bos Mead Hall, oddly enough.) Searing throwback black-metal trio Tubal Cain and the dynamic death metal of Ruin Dweller make this a welcome reunion of heavy standouts from Madison, with DJ Heavy Eye spinning between sets.

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