Oddland - Origin 01bPopular music has had a shadow looming over it for years: talent shows, where thousands of contenders come to have their hopes and dreams shattered, burned and the ashes spread to the winds. Apparently the practice has also come to unpopular music; in 2011, Century Media crowned proggers Oddland the winners of the Suomi Metal Star contest. Those last three words make me gag, but at least Oddland got a record deal out of it, with Dan “The Man” Swanö as their mix and mastering bonus. Their debut, The Treachery of Senses, received great reviews and not without reason: it contained an instantly recognizable mixture of djent-influenced rhythms with a smooth vocal delivery and excellent, mature songwriting. Such a debut is hard to follow up on, and for their new album, Oddland‘s mission was just to overcome the dreaded sophomore slump.

Like the debut, Origin is driven by pounding, syncopathic rhythm sections with audible influences from djent. The freight train of Meshuggah chugging is interspersed with quieter passages and occasionally supported by highly technical guitar noodling. The musicians are extremely competent, weaving intricate melodies not entirely unlike Gojira. In stark contrast is the smooth and somewhat grungy voice of Ojanen, whose vocal style could be compared to the likes of Chris Cornell as well as Pain of Salvation‘s Daniël Gildenlöw. The end result sounds like Leprous on steroids, in a good way. On the other hand, the synths from the debut are conspicuously absent on most tracks and used sparingly on the rest. Combined with the denser production the music generally feels more claustrophobic. The aggressive low-end rhythm section takes precedence on Origin, pummeling with jarring, oppressive blasts. It’s a darker approach, and a stark and immediate take on the technically complex material.

Sadly, the debut’s melodic angle was simply a lot more interesting than The Dark Chug Returns. The production is one of the biggest problems. Both albums were mastered at a similar dynamic range, but no one knows how to make a loud master sound good like Dan Swanö. Both he and the label have been replaced, and the resulting production sounds louder and more compressed. The shift in focus away from melody has left the album with fewer hooks to hang on to and the latter half has too little variety remain interesting. Most of the best songs are the ones that change things up: the engaging layered vocals on the chorus of “Will”, the morose “Thanatos” which relies less on chugging, and the emotionally resonant “Penumbra” ending with a scintillating guitar lead that shows off what happens when Oddland nails the balance between aggressive and melodic. But none of the following 5 songs stand out, with the negative exception of “Hidden” if only because it’s the least focused of the lot.

Oddland - Origin 02

All this is disappointing, but not necessarily catastrophic. The downsides could be offset by spectacular vocals, but while Ojanen has a rich and pleasant voice, he can’t produce the required depth to be the emotional anchor. Worse, his style of successive long notes interferes with the instrumental tempo, dragging down the songs and increasing the feeling of sameness across the tracks. Combine this, the overly technical instrumentation, the lack of real variety and the dense production and you’re left with an album that sounds superficially interesting but feels cold and distant, like a hot psychiatrist with an all business attitude.

I keep wishing I could give Origin a better score. The band is crazy talented, something they have already demonstrated with Treachery of Senses. They play their instruments well, and the overall sound, disregarding the production, is spectacular, but the truly good moments are too far between to make up for the long stretches of dull technicality. In the end, Origin has left me feeling disillusioned, and I can only make the saddest conclusion: this is an album of great elements mired in uninspired songs.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Sensory Records
Websites: oddlandband.com | facebook.com/oddland
Releases Worldwide: September 9th, 2016

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  • Oscar Albretsen

    The review was spot on based on that one song – it just never really went anywhere…

    • GardensTale

      That’s one of the better songs really. Hurt me to write this one.

      • sir_c

        you did your best to be djentle
        *ducks*

  • brutal_sushi

    I really enjoyed the embedded song. It has a TesseracT meets Opeth feel but more morse.

    • GardensTale

      Fair is fair, that’s probably my favorite track off the album, which does not say that much.

      • brutal_sushi

        Yeah. I just remember really liking their debut, but I cant seem to remember anything about it :/

  • Eldritch Elitist

    Two reviews of mediocre djent-influenced albums in one day? Oof.

    Nice review though, I agree that the biggest disappointments are always the albums with lots of interesting elements that somehow never amount to anything special.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      Seems like prog has more of these kind of bands than alot of other genres. Guys who just want to be Dream Theater. And it’s still probably my favorite sub-genre.

      • JohnC

        It sounds uninspired. I get DT, Haken, Hertiage-era Opeth, and some djent thrown in the mix. Instead of trying to forward prog like those bands have done, they just sound like a mixed bag of mediocre execution.

        • Oscar Albretsen

          Seems like for all the great prog albums I buy (Haken, Riverside, Gazpacho) I always end up finding as many bands like this that sound as you put it perfectly – uninspired. But, you can’t win ’em all, and I usually agree with the reviews on this site (although not always. Maiden’s last album was one of my favorite of the year last year). I suppose it’s just the inherent technicality within the genre itself. IMO, though, the best prog bands aren’t always the most complex – just write the most memorable songs.

          • JohnC

            I think songwriting skill is ultimately the main deciding factor in which bands becomes greats and which ones are destined to mediocrity- most who go for prog are skilled instrumentalists/vocalists, but creating a unique sound as a band is something only skilled songwriting can achieve

          • Sharp-Blunt Boy

            Same can be said of tech death bands that go for the ultimate noodly wank-fest just because they’ve got incredible musical chops, but end up painting by numbers (embedded track here is a case in point with an apparent random phrase generator with an uninspiring random voice overlay – the end result is far less than the sum of it’s parts – the review nails it).

            However, two of my favourite genres, because when they get it right/have a vision/know what they’re doing, serotonin gets released.

          • GardensTale

            I like to compare it to games. You can have a really pretty and/or expansive game, if your gameplay is shit or highly derivative it’ll never get above average.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            I hear ya. That’s why when the only piece left is the thimle, I don’t even play.

          • robpal

            This is the biggest problem with progressive music nowadays (and I love prog like no other genre). There are quite a few bands playing stellar, imaginative and crafty music and 8945872 trying to do the same and failing badly.

  • Mark Z

    “Like a hot psychiatrist with an all business attitude.”

    Ha, now that’s definitely one of the best comparisons I’ve seen in a while.

  • Reese Burns

    “Metal Star Contest”. I think I’m gonna hurl.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      I’m pretty sure Sonic Syndicate won something similar to get signed to Nuclear Blast, which should tell you all you need to know about the legitimacy of such a contest.

      • Reese Burns

        Wait, Sonic Syndicate are on Nuclear Blast?? That’s almost enough to bring a man to tears.

        • Eldritch Elitist

          Hey, they can’t all be as good as modern Dimmu Borgir!

          (Side note: my phone tried to autocorrect to “Dummy Burger” and I’m still chuckling)

          • Reese Burns

            Well to be fair, aside from doing one song with Soilwork’s vocalist, Sonic Syndicate are about on par with modern Dimmu.

          • Eldritch Elitist

            My point exactly.

    • GardensTale

      Probably the most un-metal thing ever to be connected with metal, and I’m counting Babymetal.

  • Bryan Stroup

    Persuader ended up getting a record deal from winning one of these contests. So it’s not like they are all bad.

  • sir_c

    Thanatos does bring back good memories though

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Apparently Metal is the most popular form of music in Finland. Well, at least Finland has te most Metal bands per capita in the world. So said Obama to Finland’s president.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      Hard to imagine Obama himself getting down to “Reign in Blood,” though…

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Ogglanp?

    • SegaGenitals

      AyyZan7

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Definitely AyyZan7

  • junkyhead

    Digging the vocals lines.