Review: The Odious – Vesica Piscis
Deep in the soil, beyond the reach of all but the most ambitious roots, an organism stirs. Its years in the dirt have been spent in constant change, the body folding like origami, shifting into new configurations. It tunnels to the surface, guided by compound eyes, and emerges into the brutal heat of summer. With a shrill cry that only a (brood) mother could love, the creature spreads its wings and takes flight.
The Odious have undergone a similar transformation with their sophomore LP, Vesica Piscis; myriad influences have grown and molted away in the seven years between releases. While tech death is still an integral part of the band’s DNA, the claustrophobic density of past works has been pared down overall, allowing them space to dig further into their penchant for the bizarre. Starting a record with two minutes of dispirited piano (switching halfway through to TV static and tormented wailing) is rarely a safe way to retain listeners, but The Odious clearly believe in the staying power of their vision.
From the skittering tech riffs that introduce the first proper track, “Repugnant,” to the grunge-fueled chorus of “Arbiter of Taste,” Vesica Piscis quickly reveals itself to be a “kitchen sink” affair—albeit one that acts as a celebration of styles, rather than camouflage from a dearth of ideas and talent. Few artists would risk pairing the dual vocals and rapid-fire phrasing of deathcore with Alice in Chains crooning, but it’s these (initially) jarring choices that make the album so endearing. Progressive songwriting with personality, who would’ve thought it was possible?
The centerpiece of the record (and the culmination of the band’s strangeness) takes the form of a loose trilogy: “Glowjaw,” “Hastor the Shepherd Gaunt” and “Vesica Piscis.” Not content with simply bending genres to their breaking point, The Odious set about disintegrating the barriers between their own songs. “Glowjaw’s” peppy (optimistic?) brand of 90’s alt rock flows directly into “Hastor…,” one of the heaviest songs on the album (with some big wall of sound vibes a la Devin Townsend). Then, something peculiar happens—fragments of riffs and lyrics from the preceding songs fuse together in “Vesica…,” creating a shared world between tracks. An endeavor of this complexity, without a group of skilled musicians to support it, would quickly collapse into a dumpster fire; thankfully, this is not the case, as these Oregonians have been honing their skills since Joint Ventures dropped back in 2012.
Patrick Jobe’s heightened presence on the keys adds a layer of texture to the songs; whether channeling 70’s prog with rotary organs (“Arbiter…”) or utilizing ethereal synths (“Fix”), he finds a way to reinforce the compositions, refusing to become a gaudy ornament. That’s not to say he’s never allowed a flashy run—as with any band worth their salt, individual performances move to the front organically, without being forced into the spotlight. Austin Haag’s slap-bass fill toward the end of “Repugnant” and the strutting rock beats from Garrett Haag in “Heavy Rhetoric” are just a few samples of the dopamine drip that keeps the album as enjoyable on the tenth listen as on the first.
Our planet is a confusing, oftentimes unforgiving place to carve out an existence, but it also supports overwhelming diversity—of genres, of ideas, of beings. On Vesica Piscis, The Odious seem to view the world through a thousand lenses, synthesizing snippets of the chaos into something more easily digestible. We can only hope that the next stage of their life cycle comes along quicker; seven years was far too long a wait to hear new music on the wind.
4/5 Flaming Cicadas ov Hell
Vesica Piscis is out now on Bandcamp.