01. Nuchal Cord
02. Ancestal Perplexities
03. The Gynecic Curse
06. A Sheep In Wolf’s Clothing
08. Fail Science!
09. Charlie Guiteau
10. Joint Ventures
11. Houses of Stone
The Odious are, it seems, the latest darling of the digital age. While not an ‘online band’ per se like Slice the Cake, their rise to relative recognition in the scene has been somewhat catalyzed by the metal blogosphere. It’s certainly well deserved, though, as the band released an absolute ripper of an EP in 2011’s That Night a Forest Grew, which fused elements of The Faceless and Between the Buried and Me together with hefty doses of jazz and psychedelia as well as clean vocals a la Alice in Chains. The uniqueness and talent showcased on this release garnered them quite the hype for their debut album, but now that it’s here, is it really the swansong 2012 deserves, or just the one it needs?
As the opening of ‘Nuchal Chord’ rings in the same melody that ended That Night a Forest Grew, this question is already rendered invalid. Simply put, The Odious have struck gold on Joint Ventures, salvaging all the elements that made their EP so great whilst building further upon their sound and consolidating their creative vision. The aforementioned main influences are still as present as before, but the band now also draw from such bands as Cephalic Carnage, evidenced by the aptly titled ‘Minutia,’ and experiment with even more genres, as in the funk-laden ‘Combaticus‘ and the rock’n’roll soloing of ‘Mer/ka/ba.’
This genre busting is one of the most obvious elements that affirm Joint Ventures as a progressive album, but even more deserving of praise is the structure and overall songwriting. With song lengths ranging from less than a minute to over nine minutes and anywhere in between, it is apparent that each song is a journey of its own, yet they also make a fascinating collective experience. The aforementioned ‘Nuchal Chord’, for example, is as much of an opener of this record as it is a continuation of the previous one, and in this manner The Odious have eschewed the seemingly clichéd notion that a concept album is supposed to be listened in its entirety by ramping it up to the next level: really, it’s their whole discography that should be treated as a uniform body of work.
On that note, the band dismisses several other ‘stereotypes’, as well. Above all, they are subjected to the usual criticism people have about drug-inspired music – that it is just that: music made by junkies, for junkies. The Odious prove this statement wrong by integrating a fair amount of soul and musical substance, whether through the quasi-philosophical lyrics, or their devotion to instrumental prowess. They excel not only at playing vastly different styles, but at playing tastefully within each of those, too. They also give the record a very clear purpose, from the grand scheme it conveys down to every single calculated change in meter and time signature. Yet, for all the progressiveness and sophistication put into it, Joint Ventures is also a testament to how these guys don’t take themselves seriously at all (which is not the case for many a prog band), what with the goofy song titles like ‘Fail Science!‘, and the random animalistic noises at the end of ‘The Gynecic Curse’.
Elsewhere, on the production front, the band again seems to elude all possible criticism one could offer. Everything is perfectly clear, no instrument overpowers the others, and the sound still seems sufficiently organic. This is no small feat, as The Odious makes use of an array of layered sounds in a very complex fashion. Especially impressive is the drum tone, with which the band puts on a clinic on how to program drums without having them sound plastic and genuinely horrible. While there’s nothing extraordinary about the mix, such as a guitar tone of Gorodian or Gojiran proportions, there’s nothing wrong with it, either. And in a world where production is one of the chief factors that can mess up a piece of music, ‘just’ flawless should still do it for most people.
Ultimately, Joint Ventures does everything that ‘good music’ should, but it also does so much more. Indeed, all the adjectives and superlatives a metalhead would get excited for can be justly applied here – brutal, haunting, technical, coherent, progressive, original, and sonically pleasing, to name a few. Yet the truly greatest quality of this record is its ability to transcend such regular tropes and make the listener forget about the parameters normally used in evaluating music. That is not to imply that it is best used as background music during a drug trip, either. No, you’d definitely want to be fully conscious for Joint Ventures, because it is a mind-numbing experience on its own.
The Odious – Joint Ventures gets…