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No accident or error here - 81%

MikeyC, July 16th, 2017

It’s been a long time! Okay, it’s only been three years since their last release Omnipresent, but I guess it’s been six years since their last good release! Reception for Omnipresent was mixed, and I was in the camp that really didn’t like it. Sure, the band retained their chops, but as a cohesive album, it failed. Fast forward three years, and Origin have returned with their seventh album Unparalleled Universe. While their propensity to name albums beginning with vowels hasn’t changed, they have returned more to what made them better in the first place.

The first notes of “Infinitesimal to the Infinite” show that you’re in for a much better experience than their last start. It explodes out of the blocks and hits you with sweeping guitar lines, blasting drum patterns, and vocals aplenty. Yes, this is Origin! This is why we listen to this band! Origin is one of those bands that you don’t particularly listen to for intricacy or riff structures. You listen because it’s fast and a whirlwind. To see Unparalleled Universe taking the listener back to that, at least right off the bat, is a positive sign from the mediocre Omnipresent.

Of course, just like any Origin album, because it’s such a blur of notes, it’s going to take more than one listen to really grasp what’s going on. Repeated listens will finally allow you to make sense of each song as they happen, and then pick out some attractive features within the album. For example, the bass guitar break in “Accident and Error,” or the slams in “A Burden of Prescience.”

Instrumentally, the band is defying the passage of time and continues to play at incredible speeds. Paul’s guitar riffs and Mike’s bass playing are both still amazing. John’s drumming is known the world over, and here he still continues to pummel the listener with plenty of great blast sections, and slower, groovier pieces, especially in “Invariance Under Transformation.” However, the band is maybe at the mercy of time, because they find time to slow it down. I find these are more to give the music more variety rather than giving their aching bones a rest. The end of “Cascading Failures, Diminishing Returns” contains a lovely light guitar fade-out, which contrasts quite nicely to the preceding riff. “Invariance Under Transformation” is the slowest song as a whole, preferring to focus more of a mid-to-fast pace riff pattern. The end of “Unequivocal” also contains a big instrumental section that’s much slower than their usual pace. Similar to the ending they produced on Antithesis, except at a more relaxed pace. I would’ve like to have heard this much faster, and lay down some brutal riffs, but it is what it is. I still enjoy it.

If there are two pieces of criticism for this album, they would be the vocals and production. Jason’s vocals, while good, don’t seem to exactly fit the mould the band are carving. The backing vocals sound much more like Origin (perhaps because they performed all the vocals on Entity before Jason came on the scene), and these main growls still sound a bit off in terms of what the band are trying to achieve. They are good enough and don’t particularly detract from the experience. The production is also good, but it sounds quite compressed. There’s not a lot of room to breathe, and the biggest loser is the bass guitar, which sounds like it gets buried underneath the fog of the production. It’s a shame because Mike’s playing is second-to-none, so hopefully the next album will feature more room for him to shine.

Unparalleled Universe offers up some more varied music while still being under the Origin umbrella, completes the vowel use of their album titles, and takes us back to the kind of great music we know they can play. Don’t discard this after one listen, because it’s going to take multiple listens to really grasp everything that’s happening. Even for myself, who has enjoyed Origin for many years, it took me at least three listens to start understanding its secrets. It’s not as good as Antithesis, and at this rate that would be a real stretch, but it’s at least their best since then, and that alone is worth picking this up.

(As an aside: That Brujeria cover is going to cause some debate, but fuck it, I enjoy that, too.)