"OU frequently sound like they’ve beamed in from the 25th century." Devin Townsend-approved Chinese metallers OU take prog metal into strange new worlds on II: Frailty

Hailing from Beijing and sounding like they come from outer space, China's OU are pushing boundaries with new album II: Frailty

OU band press shot 2024
(Image: © Zhang Xin 張歆)

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When was the last time prog metal was truly progressive? Complex? Naturally. Challenging? Sure. But in terms of genuine, boundary-pushing sonic adventure, it’s been eating its own tail for a while. That’s what makes Beijing’s OU – pronounced ‘O’ – so exciting. 

Their first album slipped in under the radar midway through 2022, but those who were listening clocked it was something unique and not a little special. Musically, it piled on the knotty riffs and time changes, but it had something else in singer Lynn Wu. Like Björk singing in Mandarin Chinese, she spiralled and swooped around the high registers, creating something unworldly and unlike anything else out there right now. 

Devin Townsend certainly thought so; modern music’s maverick-in-chief signed up to co-produce this follow-up. II: Frailty takes everything that was so great about its predecessor and amplifies it. Opening song Frailty sets delicate piano chords against a shifting rhythmic backdrop running from tricksy to intense, the latter courtesy of drummer, and ex-pat American, Anthony Vanacore. But it’s Lynn, floating gracefully over the top, who takes it somewhere stranger and more unsettling. 

OU frequently sound like they’ve beamed in from the 25th century, where this kind of thing is more normal. Purge – featuring backing roars from Devin – is art metal made for clubs with blinding white walls and where vividly coloured drinks float in on metal trays. Redemption is a slow sunrise of a song. Most brilliantly outlandish of all is Recall, its layered, birdlike vocals colliding with a percussive backing that manages to be hypnotic and disorientating at the same time. 

It sounds like AI music created by flesh and blood humans. How this stuff will work live remains to be seen – OU have yet to play a gig. But with II: Frailty, they’ve tunnelled through prog metal’s complacency and opened up a strange new world of their own.

II: Frailty is out April 26 via InsideOut Music

Dave Everley

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.