Artist: Odd Logic
Album Title: Effigy
Label: Independent Release
Date Of Release: 17 January 2017 (digital)
Regular readers of the Blog of Much Metal will be aware that the US progressive metal band Odd Logic were a very pleasant new discovery for me last year, via their sixth full-length release ‘Penny For Your Thoughts’. That independently-released album found its way into my top 30 albums of 2016 and rightly so, as it was an excellent release. If you’ll forgive the direct quote from that review, I summed it up as follows:
“’Penny For Your Thoughts’ has been something of a revelation to me. I adore this record because it delivers exactly what I like in my music. It is heavy, melodic, complex, intelligent, surprisingly emotional and thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end. If this album is indicative of the remainder of Odd Logic’s back catalogue, I am at a complete loss to understand why this band are not in the highest echelons of the prog metal elite.”
And, less than a year later, the Tacoma, Washington-based quartet of vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Sean Thompson, guitarist Steven Pierce, bassist Mike Lee and drummer Pete Hanson have returned for another stab at world domination. I’m obviously delighted by the quick turnaround but initially, it was delight tinged with concern. Concern that the band’s eagerness to release new material had outweighed quality and what we’d be left with was a half-baked and mediocre album. Not for the first time of late, I soon realised that my misgivings were unnecessary and entirely misplaced.
If anything, ‘Effigy’ is even better than ‘Penny For Your Thoughts’. Part of the reason for this might be that this is credited as the first full band release under the Odd Logic moniker, meaning that for the first time, each member contributed to the creation of ‘Effigy’, rather than the output being more of a solo effort with guests assisting. If that’s indeed the case, long may this collaboration continue.
Mind you, it has taken a fair while for me to reach this conclusion because ‘Effigy’ is a genuine slow burner, an album that takes a fair while to reveal its charms. In that sense, it is deceptive, almost misleading at the outset. The music is undoubtedly of a very high quality, both in terms of the song writing and the musicianship. However, the melodies and earworms are extremely subtle to begin with, buried deep within the compositions only to come to the fore after several repeated listens.
As with ‘Penny For Your Thoughts’, ‘Effigy’ is almost certainly a concept album, although information about the content is sparse. I’ll therefore leave it up to you all to explore this element in as much or as little detail as you wish. Suffice to say that the album has a genuine concept feel to it, primarily because is littered with moody, dark, foreboding and even theatrical sections that pop up within songs or more usually, to segue between compositions.
On the subject of the music itself, once again ‘Effigy’ is impressive in terms of its overall smoothness or illusion of smoothness. This record is the aural equivalent of liquid gold; it is rich, lush and incredibly atmospheric. This is all the more remarkable given the overt heaviness that is displayed throughout the record at certain points, not to mention the technicality and complexity as well. Much of this has to do with a commendably clear yet meaty production but it is equally a result of top-drawer song writing.
‘Effigy’ is comprised of eight compositions, three of which extend beyond the ten-minute mark but it is best enjoyed in its entirety. I occasionally dip in to listen to specific songs but I prefer the impact that is made when listening to the whole album from start to finish.
As I listen, I get the distinct impression that atmosphere and experimentation with varied tones and textures sits at the heart of what Odd Logic were trying to achieve within the framework of the concept. The keys from Thompson are crucial to this and they bathe the material in glorious fashion, acting as both a lead instrument when the music demands but principally as an accompaniment to the bold metallic backbone of ‘Effigy’. And in so doing, it creates a delightful depth and richness.
Having stated that ‘Effigy’ is best enjoyed as a whole, just about every composition requires a moment or two in the spotlight. To begin with there’s the hugely ambitious and terrific opening title track. At over 17 minutes, it is a brave introduction to the album but it immediately allows the listener to become fully immersed in the music of Odd Logic. It is best described as a sprawling epic that takes you on a journey of peaks and troughs, of darkness and light, culminating in the briefest of euphoric conclusions. The track twists and turns via several extended instrumental passages that are certainly technical and complex but contrary to what you might expect, they largely avoid descending into self-indulgence. The melodies eventually surface and when they do, they are some of the best on the record. Take the half-way mark as an example. The vocals from Thompson, which incidentally are wonderful throughout, are simply delicious at this point, overlaying a beautiful and understated melody. And then later in the track, after a brief foray into relaxed keyboard-led jazz fusion territory, there’s a super juxtaposition between ambient melodies and heavy, almost chaotic riffs. It just works, particularly when joined by more wonderfully emotional-sounding vocals.
‘Master of the Moor’ by contrast is much shorter and indulges in something altogether more groovy driven by the powerhouse rhythm section of drummer Pete Hanson and bassist Mike Lee. The blend of old-school keyboard sounds with more modern-sounding, surprisingly aggressive riffs works very well and the whole thing skips along with tons of infectious energy.
And then there’s ‘Mercenary’ which starts off like a savage death metal track complete with gloriously guttural gruff vocals courtesy of drummer Hanson, as well as a killer riff that gets my head banging immediately. It doesn’t remain extreme throughout but even so, it is really nice to hear a progressive metal band embracing the heavier side of things as it makes for an excellent contrast and gets the blood pumping. It is here that you begin to realise just how crunchy and powerful the guitar work of Thompson is, a revelation that gladdens the heart.
‘The Yearning’ is an acoustic guitar-led oasis of calm, whilst ‘Witch Runner’ offers more scintillating atmospheric synths and arguably the most instant melodic chorus on the album. ‘Iron Skyline’ then delivers a glorious opening, full of emotion, melody and a stunning piece of lead guitar work that sends shivers down my spine.
The opening to ‘Memories Of Light’ is ear catching with its Latin flavour, underlined by the classical guitar and what I presume to be Spanish lyrics, followed by a flamboyant lone drum beat. Another strong acoustic-accented chorus supplements the moody, sprawling track that’s perhaps one of the most varied and ‘progressive’-sounding compositions on the album, again complete with Thompson’s effortless vocal delivery and muscular guitar work.
‘Effigy’ is then concluded by ‘Maiden Child’ which spends its 11-minute length flitting between crunchy riffs and more expansive moments of melodic contemplation. It is a great, ambitious track that features a little of just about everything that features within the preceding seven compositions, thereby neatly concluding the record whilst ending it on a real high.
I will keep my conclusion simple and to the point: ‘Effigy’ is yet another step up for Odd Logic, a progressive metal band that has so far eluded many a radar. Quite how is beyond me, as ‘Effigy’ is a superb slice of prog metal that sits alongside some of the genre’s best and deserves to be heard by the widest of audiences.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day