Demo:listen: Ostro

Ostro is a one-man traditional doom band from Melbourne, Oz. Released digitally last month, Ostro’s self-titled demo hauls up four songs of megafaunal proportions from the black pits of despair, and leaves them expertly perched on the rim of the world where they stand ever-lined in the golden southernmost sun, stretching shadows immemorial. Yes, truly . . . It’s that good!  

We caught up with Ostro’s Cale Schmidt to find out how on Earth he managed to cut such a beautiful demo.

“Honestly I just wrote some riffs,” Cale writes. “They just came out of some improvising on a Telecaster while recovering from a mental breakdown. I programmed some drums for the riffs and eventually had some songs.”

He confirms that the music for Ostro was “[a]ll done in a mental health recovery facility.”

“The vocals I did later once I was feeling a bit better,” he writes.

Cale has been in the underground metal scene for years. It was his involvement in Australian death metal outliers Altars, as well as his experimental death metal band Monomakh, that initially enticed us into checking out his solo doom band.

“All of the music was written in two weeks in the recovery facility. It was all mostly stream of consciousness . . . I recorded into my computer the guitars and bass, programmed the drums. It was good therapy as I’d just been through a terrible experience. I did the vocals later back at home. I’m sure the neighbours hearing me trying to harmonise would have been a hilarious and frightening experience.”

He’s being humble but Ostro’s demo stands above most other demos of its ilk if only because Cale can really sing. Here at D:L HQ, before we ever realized how mad the guitar solos are, before we considered these pendulous Iommi riffs, let alone the mountainous songs in which they’re found . . . It was Cale’s vocals that first and immediately grabbed our attention. Because they sound a like a perfect mix between Messiah Marcolin and Agyl (of Scald, R.I.P.).

“Thanks a lot, I appreciate that. Vocals were definitely Candlemass in many places, but mostly it was about using a deeper voice for a change. I normally sing higher, as per the harmonies, so I made the choice to go low for most solo parts, just for a change.

“Riffs just come to me, no influence. There’s one in there that reminds me of Grave Miasma, but that’s it. Just all improvised. The solos were a lot of fun, I just went a bit silly in some parts. I was trying to combine insanity with a bit of melody, hopefully that came through.”

On top of that, Ostro sounds great. Not only for a self-produced demo made by one guy in a recovery facility, but just in general. This demo sounds massive. And who could tell those were programmed drums?  

“I just wanted to make it sound good,” Cale writes. “I had an excellent sounding drum program, which helped. One obstacle was I was using a single coil Telecaster for the whole guitar parts, which got a lot of feedback. You can hear some hum in some riffs and solos. But I think I cleaned it up well enough.”

With its demo recorded and sent out into the world, the fate of Ostro seems precarious. As if Ostro was something Cale needed to do, to see through to the end, and now he can move on.

When asked if there will ever be more Ostro, Cale replies: “Hard to know. I’ve got a bunch of other projects to finish off this year, so they’ll take priority. Maybe once the slate is clean.”