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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Sludge: Odyssey - "Abysmal Despair"

The only drawback to discovering great new bands is doing your research and learning there's little likelihood you'll see the live show.  Helsingborg, Sweden's ODYSSEY have garnered attention and accolades for both the volume and the violence of their performances.  The band's debut album, Abysmal Despair, was released on May 16th and just might hold off the hunger pangs in the event I never make it across the pond.

From start to finish, Abysmal Despair injects shifting tempos, elemental breakdowns, and genre-bending noise ribbons without even a hint of uncertainty.  A band is shit without confidence, and Odyssey back up their bravado with strong structure and masterful patience.  If these eight chapters are any indication of what the band's stage presence might hold, I'm jealous of every European with a car, a bus pass, or a pair of sturdy shoes.

Pyramids' creeping wraparound guitars are joined by a low and loose bass, thick with rough despondency.  The entire track buzzes until sludge crushes each chorus.  The noise adds an element of the unfamiliar, something seldom heard and always welcome.  Jonas Pedersen's vocal is just warming up; there's a lifetime of anguish waiting in the album's balance.  The chunky, choppy roll of Wicked Witch is uptempo by comparison.  Witold Ă–stensson's smoky guitar complements Pedersen's bass crawl, building toward an awesome, fuzzed-out stoner-sludge breakdown in which the track fights with itself; elements push and pull at one another as controlled chaos melts and pours us into the heart of the album.

The title track is where Odyssey really start getting heady.  Rhythms are still dirty and grainy, sure.  But Ă–stensson's bouncy guitar creates a juxtaposition as Odyssey slow to a doomy, cave-dwelling trickle.  Jesper Karlsson's lonely skin slaps pick up to a primal trot, and that sludge rhythm swells to a anarchic noise explosion.  The shrill sounds come from every direction, and yet another layer of Odyssey's sound has revealed itself.

Odyssey display an uncanny knack for not only merging styles, but also for transitioning seamlessly between moods.  No Fucking Way employs a hum that never relents as the slow cadence is sliced in half by intermittent licks and drum gallops.  Odyssey climb into a bell tower clutching a rifle until a cool guitar warble allows for some breathing room.  The hazy interlude will soothe even the most savage of beasts.  Wolfspit and Witches' Breath immediately trails with a slow burn that's heavy on the napalm.  Guitars are hollow and distant, building a separation from the slow, thick rhythm.  I guess you could say it's like watching a forest fire from a distance.

The disc's best structure arrives on the back of thick, mossy vibrations on This Ship Is Sinking.  Mid-tempo and pretty fucking cool, pacing is what sets apart this one.  And Pedersen's vocal hits its peak here, harmonized by his buddies.  The slow plod that follows on Darked is the definition of stoner-sludge.  The album's closer is quick but muddy, with a sludge bass that hits the trenches and a chippy, confident guitar that hits the dunes.  A mothman hover breaks the rhythm and we enter a midpoint that's patient and ominous. You'll be waiting for the thunder to drop, and instead you'll meet a sandstorm of swirling licks and swampy basslines.  Karlsson sounds as though he's drumming with tree trunks.  What a perfect noise-metal finale.

There's no need to club skulls here.  A band that can lull you into submission and snuff you out slowly often operates more successfully than one that never throws the transmission into neutral.  Odyssey find their feet when they break the crunch and sift the soil.  But when they wanna bring the heavy, watch your ass.  When mud, moss, and sand combine so efficiently, listeners will reap the benefits.  But when Odyssey toss in a dash of the unknown, it's no wonder audiences will keep coming back.

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  1. Seth, once again you have created victory. This one is definitely up for best of list 2012 and my writing would have never done them justice. Well done sir.

  2. Wow, I got on here not knowing the other 2 comments were from HP guys. I thought your review was incredible. My Western Conference Champions hat is off to you, Sensei.


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