It’s obviously no secret that there are several ways one could interpret the “progressive” label. We even wrote a pretty long piece about exploring some of the many ways such an interpretation could manifest, though even that is not exhaustive. Summarized rather crudely, one could either understand “progressive” as denoting a set of sounds, compositional habits, scales, and approaches to meter or as an overall approach characterized by experimentation, pushing musical boundaries, and making unexpected art. A few rare bands manage to merge these two perspectives together, making music that somehow both works within accepted sounds and timbres that are recognized as “progressive” and at the same time maintain an edge of the avant-garde to them.
The Odious are such a band. Dotted by long periods of silence, their career has seen them dive deeper and deeper into their own, unique brand of progressive death metal and Vesica Piscis, their latest release, is no different. On one hand, it sounds like you’d expect a progressive death metal album to sound; the guitars are loud and pronounced, their tone brittle and metallic, the vocals are deep and guttural, the drums are thick, and so on. But on the other hand, tracks like “Arbiter of Taste” introduced alternative rock influences to the vocals, alongside weird synth tones here and there that, while definitely communicating with the “progressive” tradition, also introduce a hint of the harlequin and macabre to the sound. All of this happens even as the guitars dig deeper and deeper into numerous riffs, solos, and leads, building intricate death metal edifices as the core of the track.
The end result is an album that demands your attention as it sets up and defies its own sound. Going back to “Arbiter of Taste”, you’ll find chugs and screeching guitars nearer the end of the album, conjuring something from a Car Bomb or The Dillinger Escape Plan album before, naturally, leading off into a semi-bass solo and ominous synths which lead into the chirping birds of “Glowjaw”. As you’d imagine, the hardest thing for the album to maintain is cohesion; when you dive from sound to sound like this, it’s very easy to “lose” the listener, your music deteriorating into random bits of music. And, to a degree, this can be an issue for Vesica Piscis as it was for previous The Odious albums. Somewhere in the middle of the album, your ears lose “traction” on the music, the different influences and their implementations somewhat blending into one.
This creates a challenging listening experience and not always in the best sense; music, after all, is meant to be parsed and Vesica Piscis makes that hard several times during its runtime. Luckily, The Odious have a trick up their sleeve: the sounds they use to piece together these experimentations are tried and true. This goes back to our discussion of the different types of progressive music. While there’s certainly plenty of “off the handle” moments in this album, they always collapse back into tones, ideas, and sensations which are “accepted” progressive staples. Take “Hastor the Shepard Gaunt” (what a fucking track name by the way). Following the calmer “Glowjaw”, it opens with weird enough synths but quickly veers into aggressive, monstrous riffs and vocals which are immediately recognizable to fans of deathcore and progressive death metal.
These “returns” allow the listener to hold on to something. Sometimes, they are too far apart and we’re left without enough to latch on to. But enough times they arrive at just the right moment, keeping Vesica Piscis from veering completely off the map. This makes it a thrilling album to listen to. At one point, you’ll be puzzled, scratching your head and trying to figure out where The Odious are going with this. At others, you’ll be head-banging along to powerful riffs and accessible grooves. The ping-pong between these two modes is exactly what makes great albums of this sort and, on Vesica Piscis as before, The Odious thread that needle very well. This newest release is yet another successful at that, marking another point in an underrated and immensely enjoyable career of experimentation, progressive music, and straight up lunacy.
Vesica Piscis was released on June 21st. You can head on over to the band’s Bandcamp page above to grab it!