ODYSSEY - An Abstract Existence CD Self Released Genre: Instrumental Progressive Metal Rating: 4/5
A little scrap of info I'd like to pass on is that Prog (aka: Progressive Rock/Metal) is now forty years old. When I first heard that last week (via a press release about the progressive metal bible put out by Mean Deviation) it felt like a Roger Dean Art Work coffee table book had been dropped on my head. Realization of age is a major thing. You know it exists but you just take it for granted, much like vocals in music. Take this band for example. ODYSSEY are a three piece act (aka: Jerrick Crites on guitar, Jordan Hilker on bass and drummer Lukas Hilker) out of Spokane, Washington who are self described as Instrumental Progressive Metal. Yes that's right no vocals, all music. Now I'm not ignorant of the whole concept as evident of my vinyl collection of surf/drag music and prog rock bands from the 70s. But as far as metal goes I've never been a huge fan of the style as far as pure instrumental metal goes. Although for some strange reason I'm still hanging on to a PELICAN disc. I do have respect for metal musicians who perform this style since you really need to keep people entertained or at least interested in place of vocals. I had this one playing over the course of a week just to see if these guys could hold my attention and be memorable. The answer is yes on both counts.
ODYSSEY stick to their progressiveness by keeping to the obligatory swift tempo changing compositions as well as theme repetition but are not so technical as to turn you off. That tends to be my problem with other acts I've heard. They clearly are talented musicians and their six cuts on An Abstract Existence are intricate as well as aggressive sounding. Their music has a tendency to draw in the listener as if this was an engrossing novel. At times it rocks with classic melodies, "Transcending the Earthly Form" for example. Other times they grab hold of you by the shirt collar dragging you along a jagged path like on "Cellular Deconstruction". As far as their long form cuts go there's no boring jams or math rock wizardry. On the title cut they actually sound like they're having fun invoking the mid 70's spirit of KING CRIMSON to a degree. I was expecting "Quantum Symbiotic Inception" to be totally early 70's FLOYD worship but I wasn't even close. It's more like a cornucopia of jazz fusion, thrash and doom. Think VOIVOD meets the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA if that doesn't make your head explode.
Being from the perspective of "progressive-not" the last thing I'd call this is "forward thinking music", a term used by supercilious record store clerks when they blog on their off hours. ODYSSEY simply use tried and true, or is it "troo", structures which high school music teachers for years have been trying to get students to appreciate. As far as metalheads are concerned well that's another story. I must admit what I've termed as Progressive Metal usually consisted of a bunch of Europeans playing keyboard heavy melodic death metal with a chick in a prom dress or ball gown with a plunging neckline as their siren. I've also used the term Gothic progressive but obviously I've been wrong for a long time. I'm not too old to learn something new even though I'm older than Prog Rock. An Abstract Existence is a thoroughly enjoyable release when that feeling tugs at you, usually on Sunday mornings for me, where you just want to hear something relaxing yet edgy. Strictly for connoisseurs mind you or a great gift to that music teacher you once had who would give you crap for wearing a SABBATH shirt to class.
The largely banded around term “progressive metal” has come to characterise music that is metal in origin but utilises complex time signatures, multifaceted song structures and elaborate instrumental showmanship. “An Abstract Existence” has all these elements and more. From Spokane, WA, Odyssey formed in 2007 and, in their own words, the music can be, “…brutal, melodic, technical, dynamic, mellow….” The casual listener should not be put off by the reality that “An Abstract Existence” is a collection of instrumentals, as each number, without being encumbered by vocal, flows seamlessly from segments of jazz, to mellow passages, to death metal and back often within the same track. Track lengths themselves vary and “Quantum Symbiotic Inception”, at some 20 minutes is a perfect example of how, even without lyrics, interest can be held from the intricate bass introduction, through the slow ponderous riffing, round the corner into the frenetic upbeat shredding segments. Themes are revisited throughout each piece to the extent that they are memorable and defined as song structures in their own right.
Song titles such as “Inputting a Binary Sequence” and “Transcending the Earthly Form” may hint at a band taking themselves too seriously. The Odyssey sound is far from pompous, as can be the case, and is the sound of three musicians having fun with the music. This is also evident on some of the photographs of the band that were released as part of the press pack. The production on the album is far from dynamic, which can be a shame, as the level of musical ability and technicality is immense, and a more dynamic production may have raised the sound higher. That such a glorious amalgamation of moods and dynamics emanates from 3 band members only, has however, to some extent be a feat of musical and control room wizardry. The assortment of moods displayed on “An Intricate Existence” is contradictory and conflicting, but it is that very fact that keeps Odysseys latest album appealing and engaging. For the connoisseur of intelligent, multi faceted instrumental music “An Intricate Existence” defines music that is about as progressive as is available at the moment.
-John @ Alternative Matter
01.Cellular Deconstruction 02.Transcending the Earthly Form 03.An Abstract Existence 04.Peripheral Aspects 05.Inputting a Binary Sequence 06.Quantum Symbiotic Inception
01. Cellular Deconstruction- Starts off with a fantastic beat. The beginning of the album throws you onto your toes. The song slows down a bit and takes on a Dream Theater aspect. But, does it superbly. I also get a Scale The Summits feel when the song jumps into the bridge, it creates a Facinating story in the music. The song eventually speeds up and creates just this amazing dynamic presence and jumps back into the blow off start you get from the beginning of this track. Not to mention the drums break off and open up the Solo, Which is phenomenal. The Bass Tears it up and opens just an amazing riff. 02. Transcending The Earthly Form- Starts off slow and brings a nice Riff to the music and the symbols kick in and you feel like your just in the right place. They jump into a solo about 50 seconds in, small but brilliant solo. The song slows down, Bridges, and sneaks back in another amazing solo. It jumps back into a slow beat and picks back up and poors out this amazing Metal sound. It eventually steps back into a Solo and drownds off the song. 03. An Abstract Existence- This song is one of my personal favorites. The guitar gives this amazing slow start off feeling. the bass kicks in the symbols, and then It jumps into this amazing riff. the drums start double bass pounding in, and I feel my heart drop in it. It picks you up through out the beginning of the song 1 minute in and you just feel this metal beat poor through you. However this song is 13:51 seconds long. So if you want to feel this amazing feeling, I suggest you listen to it as well. The solo's just blow your mind in this song, almost sound Spacey. 04. Peripheral Aspects- The solo that drains from the beginning of this song throw you out of a window and right into this song. It immediately jumps into a metal feel. The riffs pick up and the double Bass just seeps into all of it. Eventually the song slows down a bit, and jumps into some very fast solos in the middle of it. The sound that streams from the guitar just shock you, and the bass petals pick back up the song and take it to its metal feel. 05. Inputting A Binary Sequence- Acoustic beginning starts off this song. Way different feel then all the other songs. The bass picks up almost a solo like feel. It really shows the talent the bass player has. Then It picks up a more Progressive feel with the Acoustic still setting in the background. The Drums lead into a heavy Electric Riff, and the song flows more progressive metal from there. The Solo picks up 2 minutes in and shows more skill Jerricks. The Riffs flow back in and the beats just start banging out and back into more solo action. Definitely a good song to listen to if your very fond of guitar! 06. Quantum Symbiotic Inception- The guitar has an interesting little feel in the beginning. different then the rest of the songs. The Drums break out into a nice drum roll. You can feel it pumping you up for an amazing Bridge. The Drums rolls get louder and add in some bass petal. Every bit something new gets added, and the Rhythm guitar and Solo Riffs pop. 3 minutes in the metal jumps out. Amazing Drum work by Lukas, amazing bass by Jordan, and amazing guitar work by Jerrick. This song is 19:31 minutes long.
So if your interested in Instrumental Progressive Metal. Check out Odyssey. These guys have that feel that Dream Theater and Scale The Summit brings.
Posted by: Rhythm Review Published: Oct 29, 2011
The band's name is a good indication...
Here's a band I saw being talked about in various metal blogs (primarily on Number of the Blog). Being curious I listened to their new album, An Abstract Existence, streaming on Bandcamp and I understood the fuss around them. This is very good, even brilliant, instrumental progressive metal, technical, djent-y at times, powerful and epic. Indeed, it takes several listens until one gets a full grasp of the scope of the music here. A feast for the ears.
Posted by Assaf Vestin at http://hangingsounds.blogspot.com/2011/08/recommendation-odyssey-abstract.html
Published: August 20, 2011
Do you like instrumental progressive metal? Of course you do. To be fair, it was kind of stupid of me to ask.
Odyssey‘s new album An Abstract Existence dropped last week, and it’s quite a rocker. I’ve been super busy lately, and when combined with my usual laziness, I’ve put off hearing this record for too long, and I have to say that this, along with Bispora’s new EP, are the current spice to my otherwise monotonous day. If you’ve never heard of this three-piece Washington-based band before, imagine a more heavy and metallic Scale The Summit with generally longer and more expansive songs, and you’re in the ballpark of An Abstract Existence. Listen for yourself above and be wowed.
Posted by: Jimmy Rowe Published: Aug 26, 2011
Inside a practice space hardly bigger than a closet, eloquent bass lines and melodic guitar riffs stairstep up and down, shaking the windows of the tiny upstairs room. Sometimes it is loud enough outside that homeless people stop and cheer.
Cables and guitar cases — held together with duct tape — litter the floor where the three-man instrumental metal band Odyssey practices, lit only by a strand of twinkle lights hanging behind the drum kit.
The band dips in and out of harmony — the constant drums bringing their technical sound back together again.
“We never decided or set out to have an instrumental trio that plays progressive metal,” says bassist Jordan Hilker, 25. “We just started jamming and we saw how much noise three people could make. And we liked that.”
Odyssey is made up of Hilker, his younger brother and drummer Lukas, 23, and guitar phenom Jerrick Crites, 22. They play metal that is all at once brutal, technical, and melancholy. And they do it intentionally without a vocalist. The trio use their instruments to express emotion that feels both calculated and spontaneous.
“Our music forces people to analyze the music in a different way, because we have nothing to hide behind,” Hilker says. “The audience doesn’t have that vocalist distracting them or preaching some message.
With us, it’s just three guys up there, with one of each instrument, doing the best we can.”
Don't be fooled by Odyssey’s metal exterior. The band has picked up crazy musical chops, but they’ve managed to maintain some of the innocence of high school. They still work day jobs at the library, in a produce warehouse, in a photography studio, and cleaning houses. And their long blond hair still gets caught in chewing gum, guitar strings and fans.
All self-taught, they started jamming in 2006. Things just clicked. “We were jamming together for months and we weren’t sure what [Jerrick] was thinking,” says Lukas. “It was kind of awkward.”
“It was like asking a girl on a date: ‘Does he want to be in a band with us?’” Jordan says, almost finishing his brother’s sentence.
Five years later, the band has developed a loyal following of metalheads in Spokane.
Their 2009 debut album, Objects in Space, and their 2010 EP, Schematics, are the accumulation of years of trial, error and experimentation.
Their latest album, An Abstract Existence, is fluid and mature. Without the brutal vocals typically associated with the genre, the guitar riffs and crashing cymbals move to the forefront.
As a result, the music is quite beautiful — albeit heavy — and poetic. The tracks are driven by nimble chord progressions and arranged, almost like a sonata, with three to five distinct movements, ranging from lightning-fast to slow, with articulate time signatures.
“Not having a vocalist just opens a lot of doors for us,” Hilker says. “It frees us up so that we don’t have to stick to the standard formula of songwriting that goes verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge.
The band realizes that playing instrumental metal makes them more of a musician’s band, and that the likelihood of getting signed to a major label and crossing over into mainstream success is slim.
And they’re not ready to pick up any gimmicks. Besides, they can’t afford a crazy light show.
But they don’t seem too concerned.
“On some level, we are conscious of writing for the listener, but we’ve never written a song and wondered, ‘Oh, will people enjoy this one?’” Jordan says. “Our main goal is to write songs that we ourselves would enjoy listening to.
“Odyssey is just a great journey, and for us that’s what this band is. It’s just us discovering our musical potential and sharing that with people, hoping they will listen.”
Written by: Jordy Byrd of The Inlander Published August 24, 2011
I’ve been an avid listener and advocate of the progressive side of metal for a long time now. While you’ll see in the previous review of Dirge that I am cool being served another plate of my favorite stuff, there’s also something to be said for going in a different direction. It’s kind of a thing to realize how long the reach of Isis and Neurosis have been. I say this because what really makes Odyssey stand out is how their take on progressive is really fresh and new for being so old school. Odyssey is playing progressive music, these are long songs that are pretty heavy duty composition-wise. What you’re not hearing though is the sort of prog-0f-2010 thing were a band would really quickly play some jazz scales and go back to what they were doing before that. Odyssey are playing what we used to call Heavy Metal. There is riffage, there is shredding, it all has a really distinct old school feel to it, but at the same time sounds really fresh to my ears, since everyone has been going and doing the Isis thing.
This is also top-quality musicianship, these three really know how to play. There is always a danger with dudes like this that they’ll get bored and wander off into some weird, self-indulgent territory; getting too jammy for their own good. This never happens on An Abstract Existence. This whole thing is super tight. Six songs of super tight, super enjoyable progressive metal. I am encouraging you, the reader, to check this out.
Reviewed by: Jayson Published: Sept 6, 2011
4 – Odyssey are truly a progressive band. Progressive metal is loosely defined as metal that uses characteristics of prog-rock like complex compositional structures, odd time signatures, and intricate instrumental playing. And that describes Odyssey to a T. The term progressive gets tossed around a lot in metal these days, with bands trying to add progressive and technical elements to all manner of subgenres and microgenres, but it doesn’t always work and thus feels tacked on and unnecessary. Odyssey are, to their very core, a progressive band, and there’s something wonderful and pure about that. And with that in mind…
5 – Odyssey feels like a band that plays for the love of music. I mean, you don’t really get big by playing nineteen-minute instrumentals, unless you’re Dream Theater. But, rather than hopping on whatever trend they felt would get them to the top, this talented threesome has chosen to make dynamic, unpredictable, technical music. There are fragments of influences everywhere, from some mellow, Tool-esque moments, to a solo that sounds a bit like Buckethead’s robotic tapping, to some Geddy Lee-style basslines. But with Odyssey, it doesn’t feel forced. It feels natural. And that comes from playing the music that you love from the heart.
So, if for some reason you haven’t already checked out An Abstract Existence, there’s five good reasons why you should. The album is $7 on Bandcamp, and can be streamed via the widget below… and it will be $7 well spent.
My score: 5.5 out of 6
Reviewed by: groverXIII Published: Aug 27, 2011
I’ve found, lately, that it’s been hard for me to do a proper album review. For some reason, I seem to be running out of ways to say just how much I like something. It’s also been more difficult just because I don’t have as much time to listen to an album enough to really get my head around it… we get so many submissions and review requests that it’s nigh impossible to listen to them all. However, Odyssey’s new album, An Abstract Existence, has been waiting for a review since I first heard it. So, in an effort to do something a little different, I’m testing out a new review format: five reasons you should listen to this album.
1 – Jordan Hilker is an extraordinarily talented bassist. This was extremely evident on the Schematics EP, where Jordan’s bass was up front in the mix, with that wonderfully jangly sound. On An Abstract Existence, this has been scaled back a bit, but that’s not to say that his presence is understated; far from it. Jordan’s bass is still an integral part of the band’s sound, and he gets ample opportunity for solos and experimentation. Sometimes he follows and underscores the guitar riffs, adding some extra punch, but the band is at its best when he is playing off the riffs of Jerrick Crites. Speaking of which…
2 – Jerrick Crites and Lukas Hilker are pretty fucking talented, too. Again, this was something that was evident on their previous work, but it needs to be said anyway. Jerrick’s riffs and leads get a bit more attention here, and he does not squander the opportunity. When you’re an instrumental band, and you’re writing songs that are, at their shortest, just a shade under seven minutes (with one song stretching to almost fourteen, and the final track reaching nineteen and a half), you need to have something to keep peoples’ attention in place of vocals, and that job usually falls to the guitars. Jerrick handles this admirably on all counts. And the younger Hilker, Lukas, holds everything together with his drumming, changing tempos at the drop of a hat and varying beats sufficiently to keep things interesting and unpredictable. And that brings me to the third item on the list…
3 – You never really know what’s going to happen next. With instrumental metal, there’s a fine line between repeating motifs to maintain structure and simply being repetitive. This is especially difficult when given the aforementioned song lengths. But Odyssey never run into any sort of problem with this. They repeat and revisit sections of the songs often enough to aid in the memorability of the tunes, but they still vary things greatly, and so there really is a sense of unpredictability and progressiveness. And on the subject of progressiveness…
An Abstract Existence thankfully shies away from reliance on overproduced technical wankery or repetitive djent-chug to justify its abstract existence, and despite the album’s title, you won’t find much in the way of dreamy ambient, atmospheric floating, which carries the day with other instrumental metal bands. What you will find are three very capable musicians just hitting their stride, in control, operating with self-assurance, and producing something very special.
And that brings me full-circle to those musings about the consequences of banishing the human voice. Losing the vocals creates space to be filled and room for the instrumental performances to shine (or melt in embarrassment), without distraction or cover. Odyssey take full advantage of the extra space; they stretch out and fill the room with adventurous, multifaceted jams that don’t wear out their welcome.
Odyssey is unsigned (though surely that can’t last long!). They recorded the album themselves in their practice room from January into May 2011 on essentially no budget and mixed it themselves, with mastering by Bruce Connole at Wild Whirled Music. This is a band that deserves support for such an impressive DIY achievement. If you dig this music, go like them on Facebook and spend some dollars on their music at Bandcamp (here), where all of Odyssey’s recordings are for sale.
By the way, kudos to Kathryne McKinnon for the eye-catching artwork. Now, check out this album’s title track; you can stream the whole thing via that Bandcamp link:
P.S. I exaggerated a bit when I wrote that Odyssey is a no-synths outfit. Jerrick Crites does use them briefly on “Cellular Deconstruction” to mimic the wordless sound of male choral voices soaring above (and contrasting with) the heavy hammering rhythms going on below.
Reviewed by: Islander Posted: Oct 24, 2011