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Album Review: Odyssey – Voids (Out February 5)

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Spokane, Washington’s Odyssey came together for one simple purpose: to create instrumental music that is not only progressive, but identifiable and able to elicit maximum listener response. True to their mission, they succeeded. The prog trio is pushing their first decade together with a total of five releases under their belt. Each release sees continual evolution, sounds spanning from rough-hewn thrash metal to straight-ahead melodic rock. On their latest album, Voids, Odyssey emphasizes further that a vast amount of substance and meaning can be gained from non-vocal heavy music.

The first track, “Emerge. Evolve. Adapt,” exemplifies how effectively the title captures its stylistic components. It starts with an “emerging” mass distortion bolstered by prominent tapped bass notes. The song’s percussion also works accordingly. Even the standard mid-tempo groove and time signature that carries through the first minute and a half is worth cranking, preparing the listener for something of greater intensity. A metalcore riff subsequently begins the “evolve” phase, its accentuation by the drums and bass complemented through its shifting toward a grungier tone. Once the staccato riffing came into play, it left a large imagination as to finding which type of vocalist could suit the track, which the lead melody competently fills. I’d consider a perfect summation of the song’s ‘adapt’ phase to begin around the 2:55 mark, where an early Sabbath-inspired riff asserts itself much like the metalcore one. As it builds, the riff gets a richer depth and an up-tempo rhythm as if to adapt to a modern music climate. “Negate the Infinite” has a narrower focus by contrast, but its headbanging quality keeps the listener pumped through a majority of the song. It consistently exerts force for its shorter length, and while thrash elements are certainly strong, they definitely don’t overstay their welcome. I was also fond of the silky solos during each breakdown phase, as here they are especially needed in keeping the song’s heaviness in check. To say I was surprised by “Like Moths to a Flame” would be an understatement. Not only do I praise it for being indirectly reminiscent of Failure’s material, but it is actually my favorite of the initial three songs. It has a different focus, this time leaning more toward alt-rock rawness than virtuosity. By the rhythmic shift at the 2:56 mark, the chords in relation to the drums resemble a moth dying after being drawn toward the light. Generally the way the main riff hits the listener is just right, not to mention extremely hooky. But should such potential belong to any track, it is found in “Motives,” which was rightfully chosen as the album’s carrier single. I have to hand it to the band sustaining a middle-ground guitar tone even with its decidedly dark vibe, for it provides the general instrumentation with decent breathing room. The bass has a sort of juicy clarity to its tone, particularly when backing the waltz-based percussion. Besides its single appeal, the song ultimately does justice in its depiction of a sinister mind at work.

“Echoes” opportunely cleanses the middle of the album with simple, light solo arpeggios. Its backing textures share equal reverberation while elevating those melodies. Not too distant from the mix is a standard hi-hat rhythm gradually shifts into a graceful jazz groove. The song reveals itself to be more on the conventional side, although it still exudes confidence in its execution. Admittedly I had initially assumed the song was going to stagnate, but patience made me consider otherwise. There seems to be a subtle combination of classic 80s metal (chord-wise) and a modern underground reverb that works really well and it has grown on me with a few more listens. For the following track, “Before There Were Eyes To See,” there’s a context in the instrumentation that suggests an intensified fear stemming from having no sight. It presents itself much like a maze, full of jagged paths, steep slopes and unforeseen turns. The solo melodies around the 2:20 mark represent momentary progress, while the crafty funk riffs at 3:35 are akin to the brainstorming in finding more efficient ways to work around that disability. Once the riffs increase in prominence, they are then succeeded by a newfound triumph that lasts to the end of the song.

“The Plot Thickens” continues the latter part of the album with a similar complexity, although the stylistic variety is a lot easier to notice. Beginning in a Foo Fighters-esque punk stance, it continues to explore the unexpected lushness of underground gems (Vanilla Trainwreck’s Mordecai comes to mind) before tapping into Counterparts-era Rush for subsequent measures. A slight variation of the main riff returns, only to veer further into mystery by taking the darker, prog metal route. Whereas this song maximizes its capacity for integrating numerous styles into a single flow, the approach for “Delineation” is much more straightforward. The attention to detail in its dynamics simply surpasses precision. It carefully builds up a clean-to-moderate foundation of sparse, yet intricate notes. Then just when you think it turn out the same as the others, the tone becomes blunt and doomy, reaching its full extreme. The drums are brutal and relentlessly fast, backing what would normally fit a slower rhythm but succeeding on every front. To once again restart the momentum, “Left Unspoken” stays entirely mellow. It is the shortest song by far, but doesn’t feel like it needs to showcase any extra besides its calming, cave-like intimacy. By the time the song completes, the listener is fully prepared for the final track: the eponymous “Voids”. Rather than be in the vein of typical heaviness which was showcased through the majority of the album, this track emits an undeniable sense of fun. The structures are still compelling, but something about its generally positive main riff and colliding solos resembles a relaxed, let’s-get-together jam session. The members seem to play directly off one another, shaping each phase with sensibly flowing ideas, and especially making sure to set clear points between where each phase begins and ends. It is the ideal way to wrap up the album, with its remainder fading out in that same distortion, just as the album began.

Overall, Voids simply screams diversity with pride. Every song, despite having a virtuous nature, has an accessible and engaging taste for melody. There are plenty of more conventional parts throughout that up-and-coming guitar players will have fun with and eventually master. In doing so, Voids will certainly redefine how instrumental music is both appreciated and comprehended on a larger scale.

For more info on Odyssey:

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Bandcamp (Includes Voids LP Pre-order)

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Check out the debut single, “Motives”!

About Jake Kussmaul

I come from a family who is passionate about all things music. I learned to sing at an early age, and by 13, had my very own Fender Strat guitar. I tried my hardest at learning all that I could. Because I was born with cerebral palsy, I had to teach myself an adaptive playing style. I learned to write and record my own music, despite these difficulties. In college, I started making great use of my writing abilities by reviewing music, as well as copy editing. I guess it's best to stick with what you know, while welcoming a fair challenge at the same time.

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