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As a five piece melodic death metal act from Canada, Odium have released two full lengths thus far in their career. Their first record, At the Bottom, was well-received - and for good reason. From the get-go, Odium demonstrated a powerful musical force, a varying range across both guitars and vocals, and an extremely confusing assortment of lyrics; yet despite what the Canadians have done with this record, their debut receives a meagre 60%. What really holds At the Bottom back from a higher score is not what they do with the album, but rather what they don't do with it.
The first thing you hear from At the Bottom is a slow attempt at atmosphere and tension building before they explode into the metal aspect. A problem immediately arises with this kind of introduction, and that problem is that Odium fails to execute it in a flattering way. It comes off instead as a miserable attempt to add depth where none is really needed. When the metal comes, though, things get a lot more tolerable; the guitars and drums have an intense chemistry that's imperative if you're going to structure your songs the way the Canadians do, and while the album suffers from the inclusion of undeveloped clean vocals, the harsh vocals compliment the sound very well. The biggest complaint, which I feel trumps the failed attempts at tension and atmosphere, is the song structuring itself. The tracks of At the Bottom are very predictable, and Odium flat-out tells us that they are very early on. Their attempts to conceal the repetition end with the introductions of each track. Afterwards, it's almost always the same three to five parts repeated ad nauseum, which gets stale quickly. If the variations seen in the intro had been integrated into the song as repeating parts themselves, the structuring would have at least had a more palpable illusion of variance. I mean, hurr durr football.
Bad songwriting aside, the sound of At the Bottom itself is slightly more enjoyable; the screamed vocals reinforce the heaviness of the band's overall mixing, and provide the ram's head with which they batter down your front gates. Indeed, aside from being very powerful, the vocals have extremely well-done highs similar to Wretched. The rest of Odium's vocal range, however, suffers between the states of mediocre to boring; the harsh vocals that aren't highs are often dull mids that weren't even given the time of the producer's day to ascend to a more powerful point, and the cleans are done in a distasteful, even whiney fashion that reminds me more of nu metal than death metal. The highs appear often enough for you not to cringe too much if you don't read the lyrics; half of the time, the lyrics are about a combination of high school girlfriends and Jesus. The other half, they walk the line between intelligent social commentary and boring contrivances that no one cares about. See? I told you the lyrics were fucking confusing.
The guitars are probably the only repeating instrument in the whole mix (unless you count one third of the vocals an instrument, in which case, fuck you). While they can be extremely simplistic at times, most of At the Bottom is composed of semi-predictable leads, enjoyable solos, and leads that do their job in leading the instrumentation. Truly nothing spectacular, but the guitarwork is solid enough to provide an adequate backing for everything else. The bass, on the other hand, is so "follow the leader" it's not even funny. You know how I know it's not even funny? I didn't laugh a single time - and I laugh at anything. Anything - except basswork that doesn’t even try to stick out, or perhaps was merely buried by everything else when the album was mixed and produced.
The drums tend to follow the guitar leads, much like the bass, with a few notable exceptions; for some reason, the drum fills are far more varied during the beginnings and ends of certain songs, which serves to add a lot to the sound. Then, the originality vanishes, and it goes back to being leashed to the guitars like a good little drum fill. The drums are to the instrumentation as the inclusion of Jesus is to Odium's vocals; they just confuse listeners. In the end, At the Bottom is just another death metal release that even has some merit in the metalcore genre, but one of a less cynical nature can look at it as ate first stepping stone to something bigger. Hell, I'm a cynic, and even I look to this full-length as an un-evolved, early prototype of what Odium could achieve. If you want to get into this band, but this album doesn't do it for you, go listen to their next full length. Burning the Bridges to Nowhere is superior to this record in every way, making it undoubtedly a more matured release that should serve as a quality benchmark for their next release. For what it's worth, the Canadians learned from their mistakes - and they did it before I had to tell them to! Good fuckin' idea, lads. Share the secret with all the shitty bands I still have to review...
1.) "Oblivion's Gate"
3.) "Serenity's End"
5.) "At the Bottom"
9.) "Need to Exist"