Every now and again I crave to venture forth into uncharted territory, at least as it pertains to my musical imbibements. I yearn to take in new music totally blind, without expectations or prior knowledge of the artist or the genre. Thankfully it’s December, a month where a decent crop of obscure bands creep out of the darkest corners of the metalverse, one of whom are newcomers Odious Devotion. I suspected that I would uncover little about this band other than that they were Finnish, played black metal, and were ready to drop an eponymous debut just before Christmas. Despite best efforts, my suspicions proved well-founded. This failure on my part to produce any deeply buried nuggets of identifying information intrigued me. Would Odious Devotion live up to the mystique they’ve constructed for themselves with a magnificent black metal debut?
An instrumental that could easily kick off any metal album introduces Odious Devotion, giving me no sense of what to expect. “Morphosis,” the first proper track, then begins and immediately I know what I’m up against: raw-ish and moderately atmospheric black metal. Odious Devotion’s sound is similar to what I’ve heard from Havukruunu and Drudkh, except a vague 1980s and 1990s soundtrack influence lies beneath the layers of shimmering guitars, blast beats and desperate screams. I am, in this instance, here referring to the application of synths a la Stranger Things, Blade Runner and X-Files which serve as the primary vehicle for atmospherics throughout.
Odious Devotion is frustrating. There is bloat all over this album, and most of it doesn’t come from the atmospherics (as I would normally expect). On Odious Devotion, blast-beats are a crutch, dragging the record around long after its pummeled body turns frigid (“Morphosis,” “Pure,” and “Obscure Dreamworlds”). Stale riffs underwhelm until you get past the midpoint, where things suddenly get more engaging—a phenomenon which makes for an inconsistent experience. In a bizarre twist, the airy and mysterious ambiance of the three instrumental tracks (“Intro,” “Stagnant,” and “Outro”) pique my interest more than most of the other songs, and because of that I find myself disappointed that Odious Devotion did not better integrate those elements into their metal. Additionally, some tracks end with a quick fade that coincides with the final strum of the guitars, which is just unnerving and unpleasant.
However, Odious Devotion has some good moments. For example, “Morphosis” furnishes a sickening riff just about halfway through that is oddly highlighted by the monotony of the rest of the track. Four more cuts pass by without much excitement but then, without warning, “Repugnant” stabs a much needed shot of adrenaline into Odious Devotion. It signals the first instance where the drummer (whoever that person is) changes tactics and adds dynamics to his performance. Combine that with some nifty clean-picking and a satisfying sense of flow and “Repugnant” earns its status as the album’s star track. “Vitsaus” is another highlight that utilizes the synths as a constructive participant instead of saving them exclusively for instrumentals. That contrast between the furious guitars and the playful synthesizers qualifies “Vitsaus” as worthy of my attention but it, along with “Repugnant,” deserved to follow a better opening volley.
Odious Devotion chose a subset of black metal that has churned out plenty of quality content in its history from which to draw. Yet, they fall short. Odious Devotion is irksome, emphasizing missed opportunities and compositional letdowns until you get two-thirds of the way through. That is far too long to make your audience wait. If you stick it out that long you will be rewarded with two promising songs, but that is not enough to earn my recommendation. I was hoping that Odious Devotion would prove a worthy addition to my ever-growing collection of cool black metal albums. Alas, by way of uninspired songwriting and tedious bloat, Odious Devotion relegated itself to a fate of dust and darkness upon my shelf.