I’ve been pining after The Odious‘ new album for roughly the last four years since I got a whiff of their magnificent second album, Joint Ventures. The band were really up for working with us when their new album was ready, and Everything is Noise were pleased to host the premiere for their first single “Repugnant” and we were grateful to get the chance to feature the band as our Weekly Featured Artist, too.
When I did finally get a hold of Vesica Piscis, I’d done myself a disservice. I identified immediately that Vesica Piscis was chock full of dench grooves that made you walk like you had bowling balls in your briefs. Yet, I struggled with the shift between tracks two and three and was too overly critical on the production there, without actually being able to pick out what was irking me. So I took a step back, went on holiday and tried again afterwards, and found out what I’d been finding awkward.
Track two, “Repugnant”, had only grown on me since we premiered the track, and I find myself thoroughly enjoying the distorted vocals used in the middle of the track now, which I wasn’t quite sure of at the time. The groove at the end of the track is also exceptionally memorable, casting a thundering roar over your ears, with hench production that flattens the listener. But this roaring wall presented me with the problem I couldn’t quite pin down until recently. Moving from the last riff of “Repugnant” onto their 2016 (remastered) track “Arbiter of Taste”, that flattening wall of sound disperses and the source of my initial disappointment rears its head.
Don’t get me wrong, the opening riff to “Arbiter of Taste” is cool, but it really takes the bark away from The Odious‘ bite – at least for the first minute or so of the song, despite having a really cool intro when played on its own. After that first minute, the ferocity returns to the foreground, and business resumes as normal. Once I overcame this, the groove of “Arbiter” and the subsequent tracks no longer felt alien to me, and I got down to thoroughly enjoying the record.
The Odious have always been masters of thigh-slappingly good riffs that turn your knees and neck into jelly. After a few songs, you are warmed up and ready for your extra part in The Walking Dead, and if you are a bloke, you’ll lose the ability to close your legs on the subway. “Glowjaw” slows the pace down, and shows off some of the bands old-school prog elements more. The bass in the introduction is gorgeous, and it creates an enveloping atmosphere that is dark and foreboding. Unlike the first three tracks, which are obviously separate, “Glowjaw” and the following two songs are meshed together with slick segues. They roll from one song to the other without a break, which only serves to lock in the immersion.
“Hastor the Shepard Gaunt” has a ridiculously proggy name and you’ll find the band got suitably loose for some of the riffs in it. This leads me to why I love this record so much. The Odious have managed something I think prog-metal bands of late have really been missing, and that is creating memorable riffs that really resonate and implant themselves within your memory. Joint Ventures had memorable moments, comprised of either these fat riffs/movements, or hilarious samples that stuck with you and impregnated your memory. Throughout Vesica Piscis, however, the focus has been firmly on the riffs and bringing them back in reprises later in the song with serious effect.
You’d be hard pressed to find a song without that memorable moment in Vesica Piscis, and the responsibility never lies with one guitar or one vocalist. The utterly savage moments from the drums are frequent, yet that won’t stop you from busting out an air-drum on the street when they really kick in either. The Mike Patton vocals that are whipped out in tracks like “Arbiter”, “物の哀れ” and “Fix” lead to hard singalongs in the shower, or when you’re cry wanking yourself to sleep when thinking that you can’t write hooks as The Odious do.
The title track really ups the madness, delivering a Meshuggah style riff that undulates, paired really nicely with harmonic vocals, that ties off the triage of very progressive songs nicely. “Heavy Rhetoric” takes a sharp turn back to obscene groove metal though, reminding me of Cyborg Octopus and Mr Bungle. The vocals are one of the highlights, it sounds like Spenny and Patrick are puking their hellish souls into the mic, a ferocity I haven’t heard in prog for a while.
Picking favorite tracks from a smorgasbord of delectable ditties is always hard, however, “物の哀れ” is easily one of mine. Channeling a lot of the jazzy prog elements from Joint Ventures, whilst showcasing the band’s increase in talent since the record, this is one of the best-written songs on the album. Beautiful layer overlaps and brilliant vocal hooks lead into a really off-kilter finale with the band getting really loose with the composition, contrasting perfectly against the structured build-up. The greatest shame in finishing the track, however, is that there is only two more left afterwards!
“Misuse and Malignment” offers the same obscenity as “Heavy Rhetoric”, channeling over-the-top Between The Buried and Me fashion, but doing it so much better than BTBAM did on Automata. Closing off the album, “Fix” focuses heavily on clean vocals, and its a really cool showcase of what I hope is to come from The Odious. Whilst I’m obviously a huge fan of the riff-laden album, these lads clearly have a knack for songs like this too, and I’m excited to see how they can explore these Mike Patton/Tool angles of their sound in future.
Consuming Vesica Piscis in preparation for this review has been a journey and I’m really glad I unlocked the full potential of the record’s sound after getting hung up on such a minor detail. This is a great bit of fun, and anyone who has felt they’ve missed bands with that killer groove, should check out this record. Fans of all the whacky new prog emerging from the US and beyond needs to jump into this record, especially if they’ve missed the enjoyment that old BTBAM records used to have. I’m glad to have The Odious back, let us hope it is not another seven years this time though!