Regardless of their current status as the sad clowns of metal, no one will deny Metallica are among the biggest titans in metal history. Their first four albums are undisputed classics, their fifth a disputed one, and they have inspired countless followers with their chunky take on thrash metal. Among them is German outfit Odium, who have spent the last decade and a half pumping out records in relative anonymity. Metal Archives lists 17 other bands with the same name and no reviews for any of their previous 7 records, so these poor guys could sure use a break-out hit with their self-released 8th, As the World Turns Black. But did they release a new Master of Puppets or a new St. Anger?
The most obvious comparison to Metallica comes in the form of the vocalist, a man with the Marvel-ready name Ralf Runkel. He tries extremely hard to sound like James Hetfield, including the gruff dusting and the scenery-chewing faux US accent, but with lyrics that sometimes try to fit square pegs in round holes (“Point of No Return”.) He is straining too often as well, especially noticeable on the more dramatic tracks like “No Goodbye,” “Frozen World” and the low point, the title track. On these numbers, his vocals get a little more spotlight, which really rubs your face in the schmaltz and high-school-junior level lyrics. The latter specifically tries to shake up the very basic composition a little and doesn’t succeed in the least.
Then again, it really doesn’t need to. Odium is at their best when they rattle off their well-constructed Metallica-light ditties. The tracks are short, snappy and played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Ralf Runkel (secretly the superhero, The Mad Hetter) may not be a great vocalist, but he is not so bad as to be annoying. Plus the guy has spirit, and therefore does not get in the way of the lively guitars, which bring a cornucopia of riffs that are impossible to resist headbanging along with. Opener “The End of Everything” attests to this fact straight away, especially with the infectious chorus. They nail the classic sound with flair, regularly reeling in nods to other giants of the industry, with Maiden licks or riffs that late era Testament couldn’t refuse (“Time is a Killer”.) The dual guitars are front and center, so the drums and bass are relegated to second row, but they put in an admirable, if basic, performance.
The old-school vibe ends where the production starts, regrettably. While the master is not completely smashed to smithereens, it’s fairly loud and more importantly, it lacks character. Fine-tuning the guitar sound alone would have improved things, and a better dynamic range would have given the drums a much more natural definition. The mix, on the other hand, is solid enough, the vocals and guitars naturally taking charge but not drowning out the rhythm section. A bigger bass would have been nice, but I’m a hog for clear and present bass.
What Odium benefit from the most at this point of their career is a complete lack of fucks to give. Sure, they sound like a few golden oldies and don’t bring any new insights or original concepts. Yeah, there’s some definite flaws on World, predominantly the vocals and master. No, it’s not going to suddenly propel a little dive bar band into stardom. But Odium don’t seem to care about all that. They just wanna rock out, and that energy courses through every moment of the record. Inject that into a barrage of meaty riffs, and you get an album that will never blow you away, but hell if isn’t a barrel of fun all the same.