Time for something different. Meet Finnish progressive metal band, Oddland. Founded in 2003 in Turku, their latest album was recorded at Fantom Studio (Insomnium, Korpiklaani, Oranssi Pazuzu) and mastered by Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah, In Flames, Dimmu Borgir). The artwork was created by Egyptian artist Mohammed Essam for each of the nine songs, which are tied deeply to the theme of Origin: where we come from.
Well, these vocals were certainly unexpected. When those groovy Meshuggah riffs battered my brain at the start of “Esotericism,” I half expected Jens to start up his trademark binary snarls. Either way, what a great opener to an album that lives up to the band’s name. Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t come across another band that unites this guitar approach with such dramatic clean singing. I might take issue if it wasn’t so strong, but I praise the performance as falling somewhere between Ihsahn, Opeth, and Sevendust. They carry so much emotional weight from the ominously compelling opener to more mournful fare like “Thanatos.”
And fortunately the instrumentation is just as strong. Both the guitars and drumming just plain jam throughout the duration of Origins. I had my drummer buddy in the car while I was sampling tracks and he was very impressed with the work on the kit. On the surface these tracks feel pretty accessible, but if you pay attention to the shifting time signatures and genre swapping, layers of genius begin to come into focus. Chunky dent transitions flawlessly to melodic harmonies and back again before exploding into some delectable soloing.
While not a perfect album, Origins still stands out to me as one of the more inventive and impressive ones this year. Certain movements could be tightened up a hair and the heavier parts could be a little more prevalent, but I wouldn’t mess with the formula to much on this one. To do so might ruin what makes Oddland’s music such a unique experience. It’s metal at heart, but like Winterhorde, there is a focus on melodrama and storytelling that can be quite captivating. Give this one a chance even if you aren’t sure about it at first. I assure you it’s worth it.