Greetings and salutations, acolytes. Those of you familiar with my particular musical tastes will undoubtedly recognize the name and logo of the band above, but for those of you who do not, allow me to introduce you to Odyssey, a progressive metal trio from Spokane, WA. I have been a vocal supporter of the band for several years, upon hearing their Schematics EP, and in the interest of full disclosure I must note that since that time, I have become good friends with their bassist Jordan Hilker, whose brilliant work served to fully draw my attention to the band in the first place. With that in mind, the possibility exists that I may find myself predisposed to like the band’s music, but in all reality, the music is of a quality sufficient enough to stand on its own merit.
“Progressive” is a descriptor bandied about a great deal when it comes to metal in this modern day, reaching a point where it has begun to lose any sort of significance. After all, it seems that most bands that would qualify as “djent” bands eschew that term in favor of calling themselves “progressive technical metal” or some other amalgamation, when their sound is really anything but progressive. But, I digress. The nature of progressive metal has certainly changed, but its underpinnings are still firmly in place: expansive, non-traditional song structures; complicated and oft-technical compositions; and above all else, a near-virtuosic instrumental mastery by all involved. When done properly, progressive metal can be a breathtaking thing to behold.
I would posit, then, that Odyssey are indeed doing progressive metal the way that it should be done. The trio (the aforementioned Jordan Hilker on bass, his brother Lukas Hilker on drums, and Jerrick Crites on guitar) have four releases over the past four years: 2009′s Objects In Space, 2010′s Schematics, 2011′s An Abstract Existence, and this most recent of works, The Conscious Device. The band’s early work is rough around the edges, with regard to both production and songwriting, but even with that early material there is clearly talent driving the band forward. With An Abstract Existence, the band’s first (and to this date, only) full-length release, there was a definite sense of maturity and balance when compared to the early work. Jordan Hilker’s bass was a bit more understated (its meaty twang was one of the reasons I first became enamoured with Schematics), and the band seemed to be hitting their stride as a trio, with the interplay between guitar, bass, and drum reaching new heights. The release left me wanting much, much more, and so I consider myself fortunate to have another new release so soon.
The maturation present on An Abstract Existence continues spectacularly with The Conscious Device. The release sees the trio further expanding their sound into the realm of progressive rock, incorporating a wider range of influences into their sound in such a manner that the shift feels entirely natural. A large part of this is Crites’ continued development as a guitarist. On the band’s early work, much of what he did was provide riffs and texture, but on An Abstract Existence he seemed to come into his own as a lead guitarist, and The Conscious Device proves this to be no fluke, as he conjures an array of leads that confound the senses. This is most notable on the soulful, bluesy “Via Domus“, the 3:45 track that serves as an interlude between the more expansive 10-minute-plus bookend tracks “Esoteric Synthesis” and “The Conscious Device”. “Via Domus” recalls Steve Vai‘s classic “For The Love Of God“, packed with pure musical emotion even if the track does not quite match Vai’s over-the-top shred (or the sheer ridiculousness of his guitar-playing-in-the-woods video). It is here that Crites truly displays his skill, and at the same time the band showcase their growth and versatility. It is not at all unrealistic to say that there is some bleed-over effect from 3H, the blues band populated by the Brothers Hilker along with their father Fred (and, as of their most recent release, Crites as well).
That is not to say that they have changed their style entirely, however. “Esoteric Synthesis” is pure Odyssey, with the rhythm section of Hilker and Hilker locking step with Crites at certain times and playing off one another at others. “The Conscious Device”, on the other hand, finds more of a middle ground between its predecessors, finding time for more introspective, quieter playing, but shifting to unrelenting heaviness and technicality, highlighted by several blazing solos from Crites and punctuated by the elder Hilker’s percussive bass. The younger Hilker binds it all together with his drumming, displaying flair and skill as he switches tempos with ease.
It is worth noting that the band briefly had available a fourth track called “What’s The Hurry?”, a studio recording of a Rush medley that the band subsequently took down until such time that they can secure permission from Rush/Rush’s label to post it. I acquired this track and consider it a bonus track, of sorts. You may be wondering why I am mentioning this, when it is not currently available. I mention it because it illustrates perfectly how gifted Odyssey is, and how perfectly Rush’s music suits this band. Both are supremely talented power trios with creative, adventurous bassists, gifted guitarists, and versatile drummers. Should the original work fail to sustain these gentlemen’s careers, I have no doubt that they could make a good living as a Rush cover band. (This plan is, of course, contingent on Jordan’s vocal impression of Geddy Lee, which is an important element.) Rush’s music is quite obviously a major influence on Odyssey, and so a Rush medley seems fitting. It should go without saying, at this point, that the medley is perfectly executed, winding through all the Rush classics, and the band even put their own particular stamp on things at the end.
If I haven’t been clear up to this point, let me be a bit more direct. Bands like Odyssey are representative of all that is right with the modern metal scene. They are talented, creative, and driven by the love of music rather than the fleeting promise of fame. They are aware of their influences and pay homage to them without shamelessly aping them, nor do they play into trends in the hope of gaining a few more fans on Facebook. The biggest shame is that there are a multitude of similarly gifted bands who will never achieve the sort of mass exposure that they truly deserve, but they will continue to toil away, making excellent music worth listening to for those willing to dig deep enough to discover. Odyssey’s The Conscious Device is merely one such band, but I can assure you, they are worthy of your attention.