Through the frenetic virulence of Motives and the ethereal elegance of Echoes, the band nudges thoughts into new escapades with their creative hints. Both tracks again cast a sublime mix of contrasting textures which would be at war in the hands of others but here simple embrace and revolve around each other. The latter also has a reflective lustre which charms until Before There Were Eyes To See comes from the other side of light to take over with its dark intimidating shadows and predatory wave of riffs and beats bound to another sinisterly alluring bass incitement. As expected but always unpredictable, each piece of music takes ears and thoughts through a creative gest that has both enslaved and bold in their interpretations, visions that enjoyably change with every listen such the depth to the musical narratives offered.
The Plot Thickens is a rousing slice of rock ‘n’ roll but of course one which from its anthemically invigorating first breath soon opens up into a provocative climate of hint loaded musical espionage keeping body and mind on their toes before making way for the calmer radiance and spatial yet intimate temptation of Delineation. Once more shadows crowd in close to the sonic sun of the track, making their impact as heavier and grouchier elements seeping into the dramatic and increasingly clearer psychosis of the track.
The melodic hug of Left Unspoken brings an oasis of perpetual calm to ears next, though there is still a shadowy lining through the melancholic tone of the bass, before Voids is concluded by its outstanding title track. If you want a physical clue to the album the song has it all, all the attributes and diversity summed up in its maelstrom of genre skipping, imagination igniting revelry that gives expectations no inkling of where it is going to go or the turns it is going to fluidly and infectiously take.
The album is quite superb, almost a brand new adventure with every listen such its textural and suggestive depths, and an early benchmark for progressive adventure for the year ahead.
Feeding the imagination as boldly and adventurously as it does ears, Voids is quite simply an enthralling kaleidoscope of invention and craft. The ten track encounter is the new album from US progressive instrumentalists Odyssey, a Spokane, Washington based trio who are no strangers to acclaim thanks to their striking sound and creative dexterity. This new offering though simply towers over all that came before and other like styled bands around with in its multi-faceted aural emprise.
Emerging in 2007, Odyssey has increasingly impressed through a pair of albums in Objects in Space (2009) and An Abstract Existence (2011) as well as a trio of EPs in Schematics, The Conscious Device, and The Turning Tide; the last two splitting Voids and the band’s last album with the latter igniting the senses in 2014. As no better evidenced than within their new endeavour, the threesome of guitarist Jerrick Crites, bassist Jordan Hilker, and drummer Lukas Hilker sculpt exploits and scenarios which are as melodically spellbinding as they are tenaciously imposing, at times even carnivorous in their snarl and dynamics. Excesses are also conspicuous by their absence, not something which can always be said about instrumental metal and rock, but the individual skill and invention of each member is never hidden away either. The result, taking Voids as proof, is a gripping and ravenously boisterous collection of imagination fuelled canvases for the listener’s own thoughts to play within.
Emerge. Evolve. Adapt. opens up Voids, engulfing ears in a sonic mesh around the instantly flirtatious bass and thumping beats adding inviting bait. The track is soon strolling along with a vibrant air bound in sultry tendrils of guitar though, but an easy going proposal soon evolving into a more agitated and addictively volatile passage as riffs and beats chip away at the senses as the bass offers its throatier support. Continuing to twist and turn within a landscape of intrigue, every one of the song’s five minutes is a suggestive narrative to be revealed and captivating drama to explore. It is a glorious start to the album, like a portrait of a meeting between Arcade Messiah and Chimp Spanner with Native Construct whispering amongst them.
That is a description which often applies to the release, though the Odyssey style and imagination defies any direct comparisons as shown by the sterner but no less resourceful character of Negate The Infinite. Both Hilkers create a frame around and a floor of addictiveness for the enterprise flowing from Crites’ strings; the union a virulent proposal which is as imposing as it is seductive and irresistible to the imagination as equally so in the creative nagging of Like Moths to the Flame. Darker again, the song is a frontline of cantankerously gnawing riffs and a bestial bassline tempered this time by the lighter touch of sticks on skin and the sonic persuasion of guitar. As its title suggests, there is persistence to the song which will not desist, an undeterred drive and repetitious temptation which gets under the skin as a rhythmic flickering intermittently escalates with the same successful intent.
Greetings and salutations, friends. I, your venerable Professor, have joined you today to discuss a band near and dear to my own heart, Spokane-based instrumental trio Odyssey. I've been a vocal proponent of the group since hearing their Schematics EP several years ago, and an album and two additional EPs later we find Odyssey releasing a second full-length, titled Voids.
Over the past few years, the trio (consisting of guitarist Jerrick Crites and the Brothers Hilker, bassist Jordan and drummer Lukas) has been quite active, not only with Odyssey but also as three-fourths of the instrumental rock group 3H, a band that also features the talents of the Hilker clan patriarch Fred. In a remarkably short time period the three have honed their considerable talents to a fine edge, expanding their prog-metal sound with rock influences and establishing a solid identity as artists.
This brings us to Voids, a release that pulls together the stages of the band's evolution into a single cohesive package. Voids deftly mixes the bass-grounded heaviness of the early years with the more guitar-oriented experimentation of the group's recent releases, and the finished product is a perfect culmination of everything Odyssey has been building toward to this point. The album features some of the band's heaviest material since Schematics ("Before There Were Eyes To See", "Delineation"), but there's plenty of room left for extended guitar soloing and stripped-down melodic passages.
Odyssey have never been shy about their influences, and Voids seems to derive a fair amount from Dream Theater and Rush, but these influences are never heavy-handed and don't feel forced. They're a natural part of the band's DNA, an insight reinforced by familiarity with Odyssey’s previous work, and like any great band, the integrate the music that has inspired them without becoming mindless imitators. Crites and the Hilkers possess the necessary level of talent and creativity to pull off such an integration and make it look easy in the process.
In a previous review, likely from the long-defunct Number of the Blog, I discussed how Odyssey play music for the love of music, because there's not really a lot of money in prog metal, and I stand by that statement now. Listening to Voids along with their previous works, it's really apparent that there's a constant drive to better themselves as musicians and songwriters, to progress their sound organically without losing the identity that makes them unique. They create this music out of passion for their craft, and although it may seem like a cliche, that doesn't make it any less true.
It's been my great pleasure to witness firsthand (well, sort of) the evolution and growth of Odyssey. With the sheer number of bands fighting for your attention on a daily basis, it’s easy to become jaded and cynical when it comes to music, grumbling about the good old days (even if you were in diapers for the good old days). But it can be comforting to know that there are still bands like Odyssey who are out there making quality music for the simple joy of creation. To borrow a phrase from The Stranger in The Big Lebowski, “I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' they're out there. Odyssey. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.”
Nevertheless, there are very positive steps of progress on show from Odyssey between their earlier work and now. The amount of time and effort spent on recording and mastering is evident the whole way through Voids, and the use of classic tube amp tones also helps the band stand out from their compression-obsessed peers. Given sufficient exposure it will be interesting to see how far they can go; such is their potential for crossover appeal to fans of anything from 80s thrash to groove-metal and modern prog. It does feel that Voids could be the first step of something much bigger for Odyssey.
Instrumental metal has always been a fine tightrope to walk. We are currently spoiled by the likes of tech death pioneers Blotted Science or melancholic progressive king Cloudkicker, but very often this is offset by inferior attempts to mimic existing acts without enough emphasis on a band finding its own voice. This can either manifest itself as having no lyrical message to back up a thematic album concept, or in a live setting having no focal point with which an audience can interact.
The current technical metal scene is lucky enough to be blessed with a few unrivaled talents capable of taking influence from a great variety of genres and still coming out with their own distinct sound. A brief look at Plini or Sithu Aye will confirm such claims with ease.
So where do Spokane’s Odyssey fit into this? Their latest offering Voids is the band’s first full-length offering since 2011’s “An Abstract Existence” and although there have been two EPs in the meantime, this is a substantial piece of work, clocking in at over fifty minutes.
Guitar duties are served by Jerrick Crites, with the rhythm section being provided by brothers Lukas and Jordan Hilker. There is an extra sense of rhythmic tightness that fraternally linked rhythm sections are capable of bringing. (Old school Decapitated, anyone?), and the benefits of having such telepathically bonded band members are fully evident across the breadth of Voids; in particular during the many tempo changes that occur mid-song, and in some instances even mid-phrase. In “Negate the Infinite” the fluid tempo changes lend sudden urgency to the song, and on “Voids” the subtle, incremental changes lend to the feeling of dread and impending doom the track masterfully creates.
In stark contrast to the rhythm section, the guitar parts are somewhat chaotic; Crites’ solos often cut through the rhythm section with astonishing clarity and cohesion. This is one of the defining features of the band, which ensure they do indeed stand out amongst their peers. Despite often feeling over-indulgent, the solos do offer a great deal of variation across Voids, and provide enough contrast that the common problem instrumental bands suffer: the lack of voice. Here, it’s more often than not provided by these sonic guitar outbursts, which force your attention back to the song which can at times plod or meander.
The intelligent use of phrasing to mimic song titles or themes is a clever trick that lends the album substance and meaning. Perhaps the best example of this is served up at the mid-point of the album as “Echoes” follows an intelligent finger tapped sequence through several key changes, echoing each earlier phrase. It is the bands ability to write in creative ways that still keeps them pushing on the boundaries of their scene; intelligent writing that is prevalent at many points on the album. “Before There Were Eyes To See” is positively joyful; mixing well balanced bass scale runs, cyclical building drum crashes and squealing dissonant harmonies isn’t something that can done off the cuff and Odyssey deserve great credit for being able to pull off such unusual and complex tracks with aplomb. At the opposite end of the scale, title track “Voids” is a truly atmospheric delight. Slow, patient and brooding, it delivers something the album has not truly experienced until its finale and in doing so reveals another feather in the bands proverbial cap.
At times the lead guitar work feels like a throwback to some of the heavyweights of the scene in the 70s and 80s, invoking Watchtower and King Crimson. High praise indeed you might think, but it can become overbearing and detract from what the band do best: drawing on the influence rather than using them as a crutch. Odyssey do not always manage to strike a balance between these two and the lengthy nature of both the album and its tracks in the end detract from the stellar fretwork.
Odyssey dials it back a bit on the following track “Delineation”, making the most of a more subtle and restrained blur of swirling guitar work, punchy bass guitar thumping goodness, and anchored by another tremendous drum performance that accommodates and unites the many shifts in tempo and style. The middle of the song is probably my favorite part, though, exuding this doomed yet epic feeling for an extended period of time, before they out of nowhere decide to go into some fairly technical thrash material followed by another bout of monstrous groove-and-chill.
The album then hits a somber and reflective stride on track nine, “Left Unspoken” — yet another title that perfectly matches the feeling the music exudes, as if Odyssey are saying some sort of goodbye, but as usual, sans words. Or maybe it’s about love lost and words that fail us.
And to end the record comes the title track itself, “Voids”, which stomps, thrashes, soars, annihilates, and then ultimately gives you a big groovy grin of a musical hug and probably a smoke or two of reefer along with it. It’s a fitting conclusion to a damn impressive album that gives off that feeling of going on a journey when taken in as a whole.
It’s been said that each record by a band is a snapshot in time, a moment and world unto itself that reflects where a band is at that given time. That’s a sentiment that I feel really applies to Odyssey from a career trajectory standpoint. With each release Odyssey show us something new, yet also refine and subtly re-build what they’ve already done, only as better songwriters with even greater instrumental interplay with each successive release. As a longtime fan of the band, it’s been truly rewarding to see these guys grow and develop into the mature force they are now.
And to me, I find it all the more impressive that they’ve done so without needing a second guitarist or even a vocalist to fill out their sound — the classic hallmark of a true power trio in my estimation! Granted, I tremble in horror when re-visiting the eloquence Islander has delivered in his past write-ups and reviews of Odyssey here at NCS. So I can only hope you at least take away from this review that it’s definitely top-notch instrumental metal.
-Austin Weber/NO CLEAN SINGING
Beyond being perennial favorites of a few of us here at NCS, Odyssey have always stood out to me as an instrumental act operating on a different wavelength than most of the instrumental metal I listen to. And I say that as someone who listens to a lot more instrumental metal than most people. While I try not to inject too much personal commentary in reviews, I won’t have time to do as many reviews here in 2016 at times during the year, at least compared to my past output. So I figured, what the hey, let’s do a fun and in-depth one while I have a moment of time currently to do so!
As I mentioned in the write-up for the premiere of “Before There Were Eyes To See” here at NCS recently, Odyssey have mastered the art of writing instrumental metal that doesn’t forsake an aggressive bite and headbanging pulse. But beyond that, Odyssey has always had their own thing going on. And by that I mean that they existed and started developing their sound long before groups like Animals As Leaders, Chon, and countless other newer (by comparison) instrumental acts inspired a paradigm shift and explosive growth for various strains of instrumental metal. A lot of which I love to be sure.
And I think part of what makes Voids special is the sheer sonic diversity from song to song and moment to moment. Odyssey weave together a larger tapestry of influences and ideas than many of their peers. And the special touch they bring to their craft shows across all ten tracks on the album.
I get a really cool thematic opening kind of vibe from the subtle slow rollout of opener “Emerge, Evolve, Adapt,” which musically plays out the concept of its title. That is followed immediately by the trashy, in-your-face follow-up on track two, “Negate The Infinite”. As one of the more solidly aggressive cuts on Voids, I particularly love “Negate The Infinite” for its utterly gorgeous guitar solo, ripping riffwork, and noodly delicious bass lines.
After such an aggressive cut as “Negate The Infinite”, it makes perfect sense to switch to the prog-and-groove feel Odyssey deliver on track three, “Like Moths To The Flame”. If you suddenly felt comfortable in prog land, track four “Motives” pulls a fun trick by opening with a raging intensity that swiftly transitions into vast gorgeous soundscapes lit by epic guitar melodies, luscious bass work, and impeccable drum work — though the song does later dive back into aggressive stompier moments throughout the second half of “Motives”.
The aptly titled “Echoes” follows, and again, it’s an expertly fitting title that matches the reverberating tidal wave quality of the song, plumbing the depths of our minds and souls. It’s probably the least “busy” song on the record. But definitely one of my favorites, as its tendency to loop around itself does make it catchier and easier to remember than some of their other more complex songs.
And after “Echoes”, the album takes us to “Before There Were Eyes To See,” whose stomping thrashy glory has already been given plenty of attention here at NCS, as we premiered it initially. Rolling right in afterward comes “The Plot Thickens”, with a slightly different sonic experience aided by an extra pinch of spice and flavor consisting of dense rhythms and rich guitar and bass dueling-driven exuberance, with the drums hammering a trail of hard-hitting nails and cybernetic grooves underneath all of it. Odyssey have a strong groove-centric nature throughout Voids, but that trait seems to drive “The Plot Thickens” more as a whole than many other songs present on here. It’s a fun song with some ripping solos and absolutely hypnotic grooves that make my head move involuntarily.
One of the best parts of my job is finding underground bands with loads of potential and watching their growth and evolution over time. It's been quite the pleasure to see Spokane-based trio Odyssey in particular keep on trucking over the years, going from undiscovered group known only to a select few to a label-backed entity (and now back full circle to independent again). I always get a kick out of seeing other metal sites finally discover Odyssey and catch on to this stellar instrumental secret.
Here we are now in 2016 with latest full-length “Voids,” and this is probably Odyssey's finest hour thus far. There's something a little different on each track, showcasing a deep knowledge and proficiency with many different sub-genres, but all performed through a technical/progressive filter. Where this album shines even above past releases is in the combination of style and substance: the atmosphere at play in each track does an outstanding job of getting a very clear, specific idea across without using any vocals.
“The Plot Thickens” is where this idea shines through most strongly and is the perfect track name, as within seconds of first hearing this curious offering, you will undoubtedly be thinking exactly that. Listening to the song feels like watching an unfolding thriller or reading a noir novel as secrets are revealed. The specifics of the story are up to the listener to fill in, but there is very clearly a strong idea being conveyed here through instrumental music alone, without any lyrics to walk you through it. “Left Unspoken” hits that perfect sound as well, as you can hear the emotion in the music of this atmospheric song that provides a little breather from all the surrounding technicality.
Previous EP release "The Turning Tide" saw the beginning of a change in the song lengths towards the shorter end, and “Voids” is where the right balance is getting hit in Odyssey's discography. There are still long tracks (the disc's 10 cuts range from 3 to 7 minutes) but those 10 and 19 minute offerings are gone. While mammoth, never ending songs are a prog trademark, this more moderate approach really works in Odyssey's favor and hits the sweet spot.
There's lots of room for the songs to have multiple transitions, but not so much you're going to lose interest or hit “skip” on any one song. “Before There Were Eyes To See” for instance starts off with a thrash riff and then changes drastically into a more mysterious mood, while “Echoes” is a very melancholy track. The ending title track in particular nails the transitions, shifting from upbeat to dark to aggressive and finally back to prog meandering.
Although it happens from time to time, in general Odyssey crushes it on the instrumental front and you won't often find yourself missing the vocals at all. If there's a change to be made from here following “Voids,” I'd like to hear the Odyssey sound presented with a hyper-clean and sterile production. While some find that to be the bane of metal, it would probably work better with this instrumental approach and allow the bass to be more prominent instead of getting lost beneath the guitars. That personal preference aside, “Voids” is a top-notch instru-metal album that's kicking off metal in 2016 with a bang.
Highs: Excellent instrumental metal that covers a wide range of sub-genres
Lows: For a prog metal album, the bass has a pretty small presence in the mix, and every now and again the presence of vocals wouldn't hurt.
Bottom line: This is Odyssey's finest hour, giving us excellent instru-metal that spans many different moods and themes
Hang onto your dicks, djent kids, because Spokane, Washington’s progressive power trio, Odyssey, is about to show you what’s up.
Not that I don’t jam some over-compressed, quack riffs more often than I’d like to admit, but Voids is the real deal. It’s fifty-ish minutes of timelessly progressive, raw-sounding whacky stuff that is pretty musically involved, without being overly intimidating.
Given today’s mass-proliferation of somewhat samey, basement-prog, replete with talented, but tragically identical sounding musicianship, Odyssey are much more akin in style to some of the best bands of yesteryear. Think back to sweet bands like Spiral Architect and Atheist. And it’s refreshing as hell to hear.
Strap in. You’re about to hear some serious variety. These tunes bounce all over the place from the straight up spacey (“Echoes”), to the thrash curious (“Before There Were Eyes To See”), to the heavy and rifftastic (“Negate The Infinite”). It’s appetizing to prog dorks of all colors.
I’ll say that this sort of stylistic buffet lends itself to the one real weakness of the album (that I perceive): a mild lack of direction. Void leaves me with a sense of wanting a more centralized theme. Each time I give it a spin, part of me just cries out for it to go somewhere just a wee bit faster. There’s no real sense of rising action, no teeth sinking into me for more than one or two tracks before the LP changes its angle of attack. It just doesn’t quite get me off the way I’d like it to for me to declare it a “masterpiece”.
But shit, what do I know? It’s still great.
The musicianship is uncanny, but hardly showoff-y. Each of the three band members get plenty of time in the sun. Part of what I enjoy so much about it is how each instrument sounds so clear and distinct, no matter if it’s one of the “heavy” tracks, or if the boys are taking us to space. It feels tight and jammy. Complete. With only three band members!
Overall, Voids holds up outstandingly, despite its less-brash tone. Even in today’s highly competitive proggosphere, there’s a lot to appreciate packed into each one of the ten tracks.
Voids drops on the fifth of next month. You should get it. And pay the band. And stuff.
For fans of: Bulb, Spock’s Beard, Scale the Summit
Instrumental metal can be a tough sell. Oftentimes the music becomes too self-indulgent or endlessly meandering, other times the music just lacks a certain lasting appeal without having vocals behind it. One can argue the true merit of vocals in extreme metal, but they do help complete the package. Rare is the band that can keep some restraint and still keep things interesting, particularly when it’s on the progressive side of things.
Washington’s Odyssey are no newcomers to the progressive scene. Forming in 2007, Voids is their third full-length effort and it’s clear they are at the top of their game. Their strongest asset is that they have a thrashy and aggressive underbelly that mingles nicely with the standout musicianship and intriguing melodies. It gives them an edge and allows for plenty of dynamics. Take the song, “Negate the Infinite,” which opens with some compelling thrash riffing (all of which is effectively headbang-able) that is as sharp as it is melodic. Then the song takes off into a plethora of stunning leadwork and rumbling bass lines before things come to a close. The thrashy songs are balanced by a few more atmospheric pieces, such as “Echoes” and “Left Unspoken” to leave some room for reflection. Standout “Delineation” takes the more melodic elements and merges them with more chunky, heavy riffs for maximum appeal.
Things never become self-indulgent on Voids, yet the band really makes full use of the space they have. Whether it’s a standout riff, playful bass line (of which the title track and “The Plot Thickens” employ plenty of), or a ripping solo, there’s a sense of songwriting craftsmanship here instead of merely showing the listener all they are capable of in a two-minute span. There’s always something going on that you can listen for, and there’s never a want or need for vocals to fill some space. Voids is worth looking into if you seek some well-played progressive music.
Overall Score: 8 out of 10