ODIOUS MORTEM – Synesthesia
Ah, brutal tech death metal. I’m a big fan of a lot of bands that fall under this banner, but as the years progress, the level of quality and originality keeps rising with some acts evolving and others sadly regressing and growing stale. The template is straightforward: intense weight and speed; intricate leads and solos; uber-guttural vocals; furious blast beats; and technicality infused with a base amount of groove. Like most extreme music, it’s easy to follow a formula laid down by classic bands such as Spawn Of Possession and Necrophagist, but not terribly easy to come up with an original spin.
Odious Mortem released a couple of stellar albums in 2005 and 2007, both loaded with flashy musicianship and memorable, brutal songs that knock the wind out of you. With the majority of the band also members of the wonderful Decrepit Birth (whose sound is not too different from this band), there hasn’t been much focus on Odious Mortem in the past decade. "Synesthesia" has been on the fan radar for a while now, everyone eager to see where they were headed and how they’ve progressed since we were last punched straight to the floor.
The album has all the requisite elements firmly in place, the band on top-form from a tightness/technical perspective, and the ferocity imbued into the 38 minutes of playtime makes the heart beat somewhat faster. Songs like "Replenish The Earth" and "Dormant Retribution" hit like a hammer and the guitars rip through many different styles and feels, dynamics weaving like a seasoned boxer. The production is dirty enough to retain the death metal ethos whilst allowing the instruments to shine and cut through the wall of distortion and percussion. But, and this is a big but, there’s not much that will stick in the memory once the final strains die out.
The Suffocation worship is strong, and this might be where the issue lies – the band are playing like they were 15 years ago, when the death metal landscape was smaller and there was far more room for experimentation. Whilst this is not a make-or-break situation, it does mean that even with all the time that they’ve had to put this together, they are not looking to break out of the box and, for long-time fans, is a bit of a let-down. Even after repeated listens, I cannot (apart from a few mind-blowing passages) distinguish any particular songs, each one melding with the others to make one large blast of sound.
That said, especially for those new to Odious Mortem and/or brutal tech death, "Synesthesia" is tight, well-played, meticulously orchestrated, and eager to force the head back and forth at great speeds. Everything hopeful, we can expect the next album sooner rather than later, and perhaps with more attention to building the songs and taking it to the next level.