Two thousand sixteen continues to be the year in which long-awaited albums are released. The sophomore album from Finland’s Oddland is set to release in September, and, oh, what an album it is. Their debut “The Treachery of Senses” back in 2012 was hefty and completely off kilter, creating a progressive metal album that stood out from the crowd. Indeed, Oddland is a fitting name for the band. The new album is called “Origin”, and I believe it to be head and shoulders above the debut. The style hasn’t changed a whole lot, but there is still much to discuss.
The band line-up has not changed at all. The bands consists of Sakari Ojanen on vocals and guitars, Joni Palmroth on bass, Ville Viitanen on drums, and Jussi Poikonen on guitars. You’ll notice that they do not have the prog mainstay keyboardist, which does not present a problem for their music in any way, although you will hear some piano on this album.
Like I mentioned, Oddland plays progressive metal, and their sound is one of heaviness. Hard-hitting riffs seem to be their specialty, and they always have this sublime quirkiness present, too. “Origin”, however, is a slightly different beast compared to their debut. This is a very dark, very heavy album; almost shockingly heavy at times. It is again focused on heavy guitars, but the atmosphere is less quirky and more blackened. It’s very, very dark. Did I mention it’s heavy? Additionally, you will find some wonderful piano here and there through the album, and it really adds to the heaviness because it is so fragile and beautiful.
I think some of this heaviness has to do with the mix from Daniel Bergstrand, also known for mixing albums from Meshuggah, In Flames, and Pain of Salvation. The mix is significantly darker and more hard-hitting, making for throbbing ears and a pounding head. I love that. This, however, is not djent. It’s something significantly faster and more pronounced than most prog metal, but something less pretentious and more musical than djent. In fact, one of the best visual representations of the album is the actual cover with its black color, ominous building, and vibrant accents. It really shows the crushing reality of the riffs on this album, as well as the high energy and blood red accents in the music.
“Origin” is not your typical prog metal album that is full of sprawling instrumentals and competitive soloing, though some of that is definitely present. No, it is a different iteration of this genre. It focuses more on heavy rhythms, signature changes, and transitions between riff structures. The way that a new wave of different riffs hits is really something to behold. There is also this really cool tendency for the heavy riffing to be backed up by fast-paced guitar licks that create this really weird and enjoyable atmosphere for the album, almost like keys. These licks blow by in a blur sometimes, and they present a rather haunting, very mental feeling.
The band, in order to achieve all of this, has to be a tight, well-oiled machine. Sakari and Jussi interplay on guitars with heaviness and extreme precision. Joni’s bass and Ville’s drums form an impenetrable wall of awesome sound, pounding away to contrast the guitars in spectacular fashion. It’s not like there aren’t slower moments in the album, either, so all of these players can shift styles on a dime. Sakari’s vocals are suitably powerful and menacing, and I’m very, very impressed with the complexity of the vocal melodies. They do take time to absorb and understand fully.
If “Origin” has a weakness, it’s that the album sounds the same from beginning to end. This would only be a problem if the sound and style were weak. As it stands, “Origin” presents a style that blasts your cranium and a sound that features a progression of melody and rhythm that is unlike most other prog metal out there. So, no, this one style is not a problem, and, seeing as the album is relatively short, it gives us the ride of our lives. I enjoy ever second.
Picking a favorite song here is very difficult. Four tracks stand out from the rest because of their fantastic progressive structure (loud-soft) and their immaculately composed riffs. Those songs are “Thanatos”, “Hidden”, “Faraway”, and “Skylines”. My favorite of all, though, is “Penumbra” due to its energy and awesome vocal lines. Oh, and the awesome headbanging grooves.
So, yes, Oddland’s long-awaited follow-up is definitely worth the wait. It’s an absolutely masterful example of how heaviness can be used to brilliant effect. Instead of simply chugging along, it invades our senses with brilliant composition, exploratory lyrics, and unadulterated heaviness. Get yourself a copy this September.
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