Singles can sometimes be deceptive. They can either raise or lower my expectations, or give me an entirely different impression of the album than is actually the case. Oddland’s new album Vermilion is like this. I’m finding that the album is significantly better than I expected. It releases on March 11th.
Oddland have been around since 2003, releasing their first official EP in 2010. The band hails from Finland and the current lineup includes Sakari Ojanen on vocals and guitars, Jussi Poikonen on guitars, Joni Palmroth on bass, and Ville Viitanen on drums. This is the rare band that has kept the same lineup since their debut full length album.
Oddland’s sound is a bit difficult to pigeonhole. They are progressive metal, yes, and they do experiment with plenty of very odd time signatures, but there is more to their sound than that. Guitars have always been king in their musical world; I’ve even seen some call them “djent”, but I’ve never considered the band to be that. Even on their debut, I was in awe of the massive walls of guitars that they produced, and the guitar tone and production have only gotten better since then. There is a certain aggression to their guitar work, but in the most melodic way possible, if that makes sense. On 2016’s Origin, the band delved into this sound even more, producing a truly towering and heavy record.
Vermilion is a little different. Those guitars remain, but you will also hear squirrelly licks, serene keys, and more of a loud-quiet dynamic than on past records. I was surprised at this, as I felt like both singles were pretty forceful and heavy in tone, almost to the point of being overbearing. In the context of the album, I discovered, these songs work perfectly.
This album has 4 songs, but 8 tracks. The first five tracks are the titular suite, and I have to say that this beast of a song is one of the best the band has ever made. Some of the tracks are more illustrious and introspective, such as “Arrival” (featuring saxophone) and “The Walls of the Mind” (love the keys on this one), while others are powerful and heavy, such as the aforementioned single, “Feed the Void”. My only qualm with the full song is the final part, “Emancipator”. Well, maybe “qualm” is the wrong word for it. While most of the song has very accessible vocal passages, this final part has one of the oddest, most off kilter choruses I’ve heard in a while. After some time, I’ve come to like it, but it still throws me every time I first hear it.
The band has found a good balance, I think, maybe better than even Origins, which does remain my favorite from them. Still, this album feels more mature overall. The band has balanced the heaviness with some truly beautiful piano and keys, cultural motifs, or even ambient vocal passages, such as the interlude “Pathway”. Instead of a wall of sound, this album is much more nuanced.
The last two songs on the record are both hefty affairs. “Resonance” and “Unity” have an expansive, heavy tone that are truly enjoyable and melodic in effect. This is especially true of “Unity” with its unapologetic guitars and sweet ending. These tracks might not have the dynamism of the titular suite, but they are still wonderful pieces, and they especially display the tightness of the band’s rhythm section.
All in all, this is a great record, better than I was even expecting. Oddland have a certain alluring quality, and they have retained and enhanced that here. I think the piano, especially, provides a gorgeous counterpoint to the guitar work, and the more instruments the band uses, the more their sound seems to become distinct and refined. Oddland, as far as I’ve seen, is vastly underrated, and I think it is time for that to change.
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