Instrumental metal, something I have a hard time grasping. To me, a big part of what makes metal so epic is the vocals, whether they be extremely high or low. The extreme variety of vocals found in metal is what a lot of fans remember about bands. And so, the task of reviewing The Swarm, a new album by Odyssey, falls into my hands. I wasn’t too sure what to expect; as most of us know, metal comes in a lot of shapes and sizes. Would this instrumental album be too repetitive and mundane, or would it shatter my expectations and prove me wrong about instrumental metal? Truth is, a little bit of both, though I still think metal should have vocals. But here’s why The Swarm succeeds and fails.
First of all, this is a long album. From Spokane, Washington, Odyssey has been playing their heavy music since 2007. With many performances on their CV, fans of this genre of metal will be pleased by the work done by these experienced musicians. But with eleven songs to go through without any vocals, it felt like a long time without a voice. I felt like there was a little bit of repetition when it came to Lukas Hilker (drums) and Jordan Hilker (bass) rhythm work, but overall I was extremely surprised at how varied the songs were. I had a hard time feeling the emotions that usually pop into my head so easily when listening to music, but Jerrick Crites guitar playing was often what helped me find my way.
There were some interesting transitions during songs, like on “Our Days are Numbered.” The slowing down of the tempo and change of atmosphere made the return to heaviness with the guitar distortion cranking up so much more satisfying. “The Calm,” with its deep bass sound, was the perfect introduction too “The Swarm,” the title track of the album. Yet another calmer part in “Hive Mind” gave me a break from the heavy playing. What I’m getting at, is that Odyssey paced their album extremely well. Just when you start getting tired of hearing those symbols crashing, there’s a beautiful melodic break nourished by skillful guitar playing. Each instrument is clear and nothing gets lost in the mix. It shows that these three enjoy playing with each other because they play together, as a unit. It’s not just a guitar guy going wild while the drummer smashes his drums intensively, no, there is meaning to what they are doing.
By the last few songs, even with the beautiful transitions, I had started getting tired. With all the good and variation in this album, there still wasn’t enough to make eleven instrumental songs feel all completely unique and different. I would suggest either releasing shorter albums or crossing the borders of metal and seeking inspiration from other shores. The second idea is probably the best, and with the experience and skill Odyssey has, they could surely craft a perfect album.
Written by Johnathan Robinson
*edited by Danielle Kenedy