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Odyssey - An Abstract Existence - 95%

groverXIII, October 15th, 2011

I’ve found, lately, that it’s been hard for me to do a proper album review. For some reason, I seem to be running out of ways to say just how much I like something. It’s also been more difficult just because I don’t have as much time to listen to an album enough to really get my head around it… I get so many submissions and review requests that it’s nigh impossible to listen to them all. However, Odyssey’s new album, An Abstract Existence, has been waiting for a review since I first heard it. So, in an effort to do something a little different, I’m testing out a new review format: five reasons you should listen to this album.

1 – Jordan Hilker is an extraordinarily talented bassist. This was extremely evident on the Schematics EP, where Jordan’s bass was up front in the mix, with that wonderfully jangly sound. On An Abstract Existence, this has been scaled back a bit, but that’s not to say that his presence is understated; far from it. Jordan’s bass is still an integral part of the band’s sound, and he gets ample opportunity for solos and experimentation. Sometimes he follows and underscores the guitar riffs, adding some extra punch, but the band is at its best when he is playing off the riffs of Jerrick Crites. Speaking of which…

2 – Jerrick Crites and Lukas Hilker are pretty fucking talented, too. Again, this was something that was evident on their previous work, but it needs to be said anyway. Jerrick’s riffs and leads get a bit more attention here, and he does not squander the opportunity. When you’re an instrumental band, and you’re writing songs that are, at their shortest, just a shade under seven minutes (with one song stretching to almost fourteen, and the final track reaching nineteen and a half), you need to have something to keep peoples’ attention in place of vocals, and that job usually falls to the guitars. Jerrick handles this admirably on all counts. And the younger Hilker, Lukas, holds everything together with his drumming, changing tempos at the drop of a hat and varying beats sufficiently to keep things interesting and unpredictable. And that brings me to the third item on the list…

3 – You never really know what’s going to happen next. With instrumental metal, there’s a fine line between repeating motifs to maintain structure and simply being repetitive. This is especially difficult when given the aforementioned song lengths. But Odyssey never run into any sort of problem with this. They repeat and revisit sections of the songs often enough to aid in the memorability of the tunes, but they still vary things greatly, and so there really is a sense of unpredictability and progressiveness. And on the subject of progressiveness…

4 – Odyssey are truly a progressive band. Progressive metal is loosely defined as metal that uses characteristics of prog-rock like complex compositional structures, odd time signatures, and intricate instrumental playing. And that describes Odyssey to a T. The term progressive gets tossed around a lot in metal these days, with bands trying to add progressive and technical elements to all manner of subgenres and microgenres, but it doesn’t always work and thus feels tacked on and unnecessary. Odyssey are, to their very core, a progressive band, and there’s something wonderful and pure about that. And with that in mind…

5 – Odyssey feels like a band that plays for the love of music. I mean, you don’t really get big by playing nineteen-minute instrumentals, unless you’re Dream Theater. But, rather than hopping on whatever trend they felt would get them to the top, this talented threesome has chosen to make dynamic, unpredictable, technical music. There are fragments of influences everywhere, from some mellow, Tool-esque moments, to a solo that sounds a bit like Buckethead’s robotic tapping, to some Geddy Lee-style basslines. But with Odyssey, it doesn’t feel forced. It feels natural. And that comes from playing the music that you love from the heart.

So, if for some reason you haven’t already checked out An Abstract Existence, there’s five good reasons why you should. The album is $7 on Bandcamp, and it's $7 well spent.

Originally written for The Number Of The Blog