The ‘Suomi Metal Star’ award is a prestigious ‘Battle of the Bands’ style award given out in Finland, (think the X-Factor but with artistic merit), and Oddland were the recipients of this coveted award last year having won over the majority of the judging panel with their brand of sophisticated prog metal. The prize for winning was a record deal with Century Media, (a much better prize than the British equivalent of a Xmas karaoke CD and swift journey to obscurity), and the band have just finished work on their debut album ‘The Treachery of Senses’ which was mixed by none other than Dan Swanö. Winning such a prize these days is no guarantee of lasting success, so it’s time to see what they’ve got in their locker and if they are headed for stardom or the bargain bin.
It doesn’t take long to realise that Oddland are no mere flash in the pan, run of the mill band, managing to convince me within the first minute of opening track ‘Above and Beyond’. Its staccato riffs bear comparison with Meshuggah whilst the clean soaring vocals of Sakari Ojanen vary between the grand style of Juha Leppäluoto and Mikael Åkerfeldt in his more quiet and reflective moments. Musical convention goes out the window as Oddland experiment with song structures and time signatures like their own personal playthings and most importantly they manage to make it work. Like a good movie manages to reward you by showing you new things on repeat viewings, so ‘The Treachery of Senses’ does on repeat listens. There is often so much going on in the background that it is nigh on impossible to take it all in the first time around, or the second, or even third, such is the amount of effort that has gone into the composition. The guitars often seem to be playing riffs that simply do not fit the music, but once you’ve settled in to the slightly offbeat rhythms and recalibrated your senses you realise that they just happen to be annoyingly clever.
Tracks such as ‘Flooding Light’ and ‘Sewers’ bear comparison with the likes of Tool and Klone, such is the level of technicality and the willingness with which they are ready to wrong foot you with the pace of the songs. Naturally there are a few moments where things don’t quite work out perhaps as intended; not least the Frank Zappa influenced jazzy break on ‘Flooding Light’ which manages to momentarily break the flow which otherwise they manage to maintain throughout, often in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. If there is any doubt about Oddland’s ability then they are completely quashed by ‘Ire’, the final track on the album. A sprawling 8 minute masterpiece that bears favourable comparison with some of Opeth’s best as it builds from its quiet and reflective beginnings into a sprawling riff laden monster.
In a world where musical talent shows predominately mean uniform characterless rancid pissweasels spewing forth saccharine laden vomit at Christmas, it bears joyous relief that there are still places and occasions where a battle of the bands means just that, where talented musicians fight for the opportunity for their big break. Oddland are well deserving of their chance, and well done to Century Media for giving them the opportunity. Musically gifted, and with an excellent sense of composition, I’m genuinely struggling to think of any band who have delivered a more confident and accomplished debut. It can take a few listens to fully get your head around, but ‘The Treachery of Senses’ is an excellent album that’s well worth the effort. You’re going to hear more about these guys in the future I reckon…
(8.5/10 – Lee Kimber)