When I first came across the subject of this article, they were described by Angry Metal Guy as ‘tech-death with neoclassical, jazz, groove, and mathcore.’ Upon seeing that review, my first thought was, ‘If this band can pull it off, then that sounds amazing.’ Now, I might be biased, but I think Owdwyr pulled it off. So much so, they both inspired me to reach out to them to be our current Weekly Featured Artist and to describe their debut full-length, Receptor, as one of the most exciting metal records I have heard this year.
From Receptor‘s instrumental opener, “Praefatio”, we encounter a broad range of influences that, in this case, span the gap between an orchestral film score, moody synths, and some incredibly controlled guitar tapping (I think). Elsewhere, like on “Stench of Indemnity”, Owdwyr (Paul Plumeri Jr. on guitars, composition, and programming, Max Lichtman on vocals, and Chris Williams on bass) lean into an angular tech-death-meets-mathcore maelstrom where darting lead lines encounter haunting harmonies, breakdowns, atonal guitar histrionics, offset by video-game-esque synths. “Not Afraid” pulls in hardcore and thrash influences before crashing off into blast beats.
It’s no easy feat to cover so much musical territory in three songs, and the above description hardly applies to the massive breadth of ground covered on the first Owdwyr record. To so masterfully navigate such complex and varied material is a testament to the three members’ substantial experiences as musicians across New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania since the mid-to-late 2000s. Plumeri and Lichtman had discussed collaborating on a release for some time, slowly expanding from an EP into a full-length throughout the pandemic. Williams entered the fold later to record bass.
Lichtman explains the group’s unique name:
‘Owdwyr is an acronym born from a system I have been using in lyrics where phrases are mashed together into acronyms/portmanteaus that look and sound like legitimate words. This system has been incredibly effective for my writing process as it enables me to hide additional layers of meaning and context in stories (that I can then choose to explore further or not). Our plan is to expand on its meaning along with the lore of the album over time.’
This artful mashing of phrases is not dissimilar from the group’s sound. “Ein” opens with a lilting jazz piano performance that explodes into a metallic mix of tremolo riffage and blast beats, low-tuned Meshuggah-esque grooves, and dissonant synth leads. From reading their recent The Anatomy Of article from Heavy Blog Is Heavy, Owdwyr draws from an impressive range of influences from Tom Waits, Genesis, and Claude Debussy to Meshuggah, Human Remains, and The Dillinger Escape Plan. The ability to artfully explore such a diverse array of inspirations is attributed to maturity and living a varied life, as Plumeri Jr. explains:
‘In my earlier years of songwriting, I used to go bananas trying to make everything a display of technicality. Now, I’m more concerned with maintaining a balance between elements that, over the course of the album, even each other out. This ‘brief’ I wrote to the musicians we collaborated with sums it up well: ‘My goal is to create a really dynamic metal album that crosses subgenres without getting goofy. I’m trying to achieve a balance so that the album doesn’t get monotonous quickly. As a credo: when things get too fast for too long, slow them down; too dissonant, transition to consonant melody and harmony; too djenty, more death metal, too pompous, strip back, simplify, and grind the fuck out’… Songs on Receptor were inspired by such stimuli as odd rhythmic cadences of police sirens to a drunk night out with a friend. I’ve found that the more I live in a bubble, the more rote my songwriting and playing will become.’
Owdwyr undoubtedly achieved the brief, which provides a thorough understanding of the album’s range of compositions. The sonic variety of the record is furthered by the star-studded cast of drummers that handle percussion on Receptor. There are four masterful drummers across the debut record’s fifteen songs, including Kenny Grohowski (Imperial Triumphant), Navene Koperweis (Entheos, ex-Animals As Leaders, Job For A Cowboy, Machine Head), Kevin Paradis (Ne Obliviscaris), and Alex Cohen (Malignancy, Mac Miller).
Lichtman and Plumeri sent some artfully worded pitch emails to the artists across the record. Their approach, plus impressive demos and the free time made available by the pandemic, helped Owdwyr achieve their vision of bringing so many artists together on the record. Lichtman speaks on the opportunity to work with such legends:
‘One of my favorite aspects of making the album was being able to work with other absolute monster musicians. It was our first time being able to collaborate with most of the guests who appear on the album, born from simply reaching out over email to see who was available and interested in recording. As an active drummer myself, Alex, Kevin, Kenny, and Navene are some of my favorite modern metal drummers and I’m forever stoked to have had the opportunity to share tracks with them. I’ve known AJ (who mixed the album) and Frank for many years – we all played in the same local metal scene – and being able to work with them in a new context is awesome. Their band Hath fucking slaps. Check them out immediately.’
Owdwyr had a vision for the record, but so much had to be done and learned for Receptor to come together. From setting up a home studio and engineering the record to composing using virtual instruments, coordinating with many collaborators, and understanding the business side of a music release, the group’s three members had their work cut out. And yet, they did it, which Lichtman largely attributes to patience, communication, listening, and the ability to embrace criticism. Plumeri Jr.’s day job involves project management, which he also points to as a beneficial skill set in bringing Receptor to life.
Nearly every review I have read of Receptor has been glowing. And now, Owdwyr is building off that momentum by creating content that explores Receptor‘s ideas while developing a plan to perform the band’s music live. The group is actively planning how to build their community and relationship with fans while creating a unique live music experience and more music.
Paul Plumeri Jr. – Guitars, Composition, and Programming
Max Lichtman – Vocals and Lyrics
Chris Williams – Bass
If you want to keep up with this exciting new band, follow Owdwyr on Facebook and Instagram. They also told me how much buying their merch helps them continue creating music, so please consider doing that here.