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Juicy covers and a diamond-in-the-rough EP - 82%

Myrkrarfar, May 14th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Vic Records

On “Reinventing the Past”, Odyssey bring us ultimate 80’s cheese, a vocalist to die for and killer catchy tunes. On the majority of this release, Odyssey consists of one man, the legendary Dan Swanö. You know his work. If not, do yourself a favour and check out his extensive back catalog. Somewhere along the road, he got the fabulous idea of recording covers of some of his favorite tunes and, being as awesome as he is, right away found a record company willing to release the shit. Dan also chose to include re-mastered versions of the three tracks from Odyssey’s only official release before “Reinventing the Past”, a self-titled MCD released in 1999. On this EP Swanö was accompanied by Rickard Gustafsson and The Project Hate’s Lord K.

The cover songs’ original versions are pretty varied, ranging from melodic hard rock (Rainbow, Uriah Heep, MSG, UFO) to doom metal (Candlemass) and 80's synth pop (Depeche Mode, Sandra). The common denominator, aside from all songs being very melodic, is that they were all initially released between 1978 and 1987, except for the Uriah Heep song “Gypsy”, which is from their 1970 debut. Our Swedish hero was born in 1973, and these tracks have probably been among his favourites throughout most of his life. For those familiar with Swanö’s AOR/prog rock band Nightingale, all of the songs picked make sense. You can hear by which parts of Depeche Mode, Michael Schenker Group or even Sandra Dan has gotten influenced, so these seven cover tracks really give a good picture of where Dan came from, musically. I’ve been listening to his various bands and projects for more than two decades, but some puzzle pieces still didn’t fall into place before I heard these covers.

Swanö has treated the original songs with love and care; he’s kept the original vibe intact but still added so much of the Spirit of Dan in terms of production, arrangements and, of course, his voice that this could be a solo record written by himself. The foundation of the sound is massive, down-tuned metal with mountain-sized riffs and drumming coupled with Swanö's trademark soaring vocals. The diversity of the songs' original versions is equalized by the boner-inducing treatment with heavier-than-your-mom riffage. If you've ever wondered how melodic 70's and 80's tunes would sound today, played by a melodic doom band, grab "Reinventing the Past".

The production reeks of the sweet Unisound touch, crisp, punchy and clear. Massive where it’s needed. Many re-worked details are also easily recognized as bearing the slick, bold and cheesy fingerprint of the dude. And that voice…goddamn. This might be his best vocal performance yet, and he’s done some great fucking stuff before. Seems like his voice is aging well. There are no growls on any of the tracks on this disc, but – as awesome as they are – they are not missed for a fucking second. Trust me.

I would definitely recommend all seven tracks, but Sandra’s “In the Heat of the Night” and Depeche Mode’s “Shake the Disease” deserve extra remarks – incredibly enjoyable renditions. Especially the chorus in the latter is a blissful mindfuck with its imaginative chord patterns, and Dan’s vocals fit so perfectly into the mold that this song could very well have been written with him in mind. The only remark I have regarding his vocals is the horrid effect on the chorus of “At the Gallow’s End” (my favorite doom metal track, bar none). What the fuck were you thinking? The vocal harmonies don't mesh with the style, either. We also get some guest guitar solos by Dag Swanö (Dan’s brother, also in Nightingale), Markus Vanhala (Omnium Gatherum) and some other lads. Mostly these solos are very good, but occasionally they get a little tedious, especially some of Vanhala’s leads.

The “Odyssey” EP then: these songs don’t have as massive a production as the more recent recordings, and they could have used a bit more low-end to be really as menacing as they deserve. All of the three songs are quality down-tuned and chunky catchiness that switches between cheesy AOR/prog, pounding metal and mysterious Egyptian harmonies. Somewhere between Nightingale and Edge of Sanity, I’d say. Many parts sound very much like EoS, actually, for example, the main riff of “I Carry a Secret”. Nothing wrong with that, EoS was a great fucking band.

The choruses are mighty fine and catchy, and Dan’s vocals are ace as always. You can hear that he’s younger here, he’s got a treblier timbre to his voice. Some of the harmonies could’ve been mixed a little lower, like on the chorus of “I Carry a Penis”. The most awesome moment of this MCD is when the piano kicks in by the end of “Amon-Ra” – that is Teh Fucken Awesome – and the last chorus brings the 18-minute release to a fantastic close.

Despite the high quality of the riffs and performances, and many excellent riffs and melodies, I sense that not everything regarding the arrangements and songwriting has been completed and well-crafted as flawlessly as a full-fledged band (as opposed to a project) would have done, especially as the band involves musicians as accomplished as Swanö and Philipson. A bit raw it is, but still so good that I need to track down the original and pay some serious mana.

In conclusion: a re-mastered diamond-in-the-rough EP which is close to impossible to find in its original format, and almost a full-length’s worth of new juicy covers. With Dan Swanö on vocals. Why are you not owning this record already?