5th February 2016 – Self-released
01, Emerge. Evolve. Adapt.
02. Negate The Infinite
03. Like Moths to the Flame
06. Before There Were Eyes To See
07. The Plot Thickens
09. Left Unspoken
Instrumental metal has always been a fine tightrope to walk. We are currently spoiled by the likes of tech death pioneers Blotted Science or melancholic progressive king Cloudkicker, but very often this is offset by inferior attempts to mimic existing acts without enough emphasis on a band finding its own voice. This can either manifest itself as having no lyrical message to back up a thematic album concept, or in a live setting having no focal point with which an audience can interact.
The current technical metal scene is lucky enough to be blessed with a few unrivaled talents capable of taking influence from a great variety of genres and still coming out with their own distinct sound. A brief look at Plini or Sithu Aye will confirm such claims with ease.
So where do Spokane’s Odyssey fit into this? Their latest offering Voids is the band’s first full-length offering since 2011’s “An Abstract Existence” and although there have been two EPs in the meantime, this is a substantial piece of work, clocking in at over fifty minutes.
Guitar duties are served by Jerrick Crites, with the rhythm section being provided by brothers Lukas and Jordan Hilker. There is an extra sense of rhythmic tightness that fraternally linked rhythm sections are capable of bringing. (Old school Decapitated, anyone?), and the benefits of having such telepathically bonded band members are fully evident across the breadth of Voids; in particular during the many tempo changes that occur mid-song, and in some instances even mid-phrase. In “Negate the Infinite” the fluid tempo changes lend sudden urgency to the song, and on “Voids” the subtle, incremental changes lend to the feeling of dread and impending doom the track masterfully creates.
In stark contrast to the rhythm section, the guitar parts are somewhat chaotic; Crites’ solos often cut through the rhythm section with astonishing clarity and cohesion. This is one of the defining features of the band, which ensure they do indeed stand out amongst their peers. Despite often feeling over-indulgent, the solos do offer a great deal of variation across Voids, and provide enough contrast that the common problem instrumental bands suffer: the lack of voice. Here, it’s more often than not provided by these sonic guitar outbursts, which force your attention back to the song which can at times plod or meander.
The intelligent use of phrasing to mimic song titles or themes is a clever trick that lends the album substance and meaning. Perhaps the best example of this is served up at the mid-point of the album as “Echoes” follows an intelligent finger tapped sequence through several key changes, echoing each earlier phrase. It is the bands ability to write in creative ways that still keeps them pushing on the boundaries of their scene; intelligent writing that is prevalent at many points on the album. “Before There Were Eyes To See” is positively joyful; mixing well balanced bass scale runs, cyclical building drum crashes and squealing dissonant harmonies isn’t something that can done off the cuff and Odyssey deserve great credit for being able to pull off such unusual and complex tracks with aplomb. At the opposite end of the scale, title track “Voids” is a truly atmospheric delight. Slow, patient and brooding, it delivers something the album has not truly experienced until its finale and in doing so reveals another feather in the bands proverbial cap.
At times the lead guitar work feels like a throwback to some of the heavyweights of the scene in the 70s and 80s, invoking Watchtower and King Crimson. High praise indeed you might think, but it can become overbearing and detract from what the band do best: drawing on the influence rather than using them as a crutch. Odyssey do not always manage to strike a balance between these two and the lengthy nature of both the album and its tracks in the end detract from the stellar fretwork.
Nevertheless, there are very positive steps of progress on show from Odyssey between their earlier work and now. The amount of time and effort spent on recording and mastering is evident the whole way through Voids, and the use of classic tube amp tones also helps the band stand out from their compression-obsessed peers. Given sufficient exposure it will be interesting to see how far they can go; such is their potential for crossover appeal to fans of anything from 80s thrash to groove-metal and modern prog. It does feel that Voids could be the first step of something much bigger for Odyssey.