|CD REVIEW Oddland|
Band : Oddland
Finland's newest Prog Metal monsters Oddland are portrayed as the “odd one off” band on the Century Media roster, partly because they do not borrow from the typical Prog Metal formula created by Dream Theater, and partly because the singer hardly goes into a Death growl, as so many young bands these days tend to do. They came to the attention of the label by winning the majority of the Suomi Metal Star contest's jury members, and were signed in spite of their oddity, because the people of Century Media that this band was gonna be more than the usual contest winners...whom normally will go on to score one, or possibly two, hit singles, before disappearing from the face of the Earth. Nay, with Oddland, they felt, they'd gotten themselves a band “...destined to be anything but a flash in the pan...” (taken literally from the bio that came with our (download) promo copy of the album). So, who are these guys, and why indeed does the label feel justified to dub them “Prog monsters”?
Well, it all started far more modestly, in 2002, when singer/ guitarist Sakari Ojanen, bassist Joni Palmorth, drummer Ville Viljanen, and a second guitarist known just with his Christian name, Veikka started a Rock act with Grunge affinities. A year later the band decides to go for a more aggressive approach, and thus gears towards Metal. 2004 sees the band play its first gigs in the Turku area, but shortly after Veikka, whom had grown weary of playing Metal, leaves. Towards the end of that year the band, as a trio, records it first demo, Against All Odds. Still as a trio, the band plays some shows in 2005, and writes some new material, which they record in 2006 after the joining of second guitarist Joonas Laakso. The demo is never released, and towards the end of the year Laakso also disappears. Again a trio, the band records and releases its first official EP Connections Critical Behind in 2007, and soon after Sakari leaves for Spain for a year as exchange student.
When he returns, the band takes things a little more seriously, and shifts towards an even more progressive coloured music. For a while, second guitarist Jussi Kaumi joins the band, but after one gig in that configuration with the band, he becomes aware hat the combination of two bands with his family doesn not work well, and it's on friendly terms that he severs ties with Oddland. Again as a trio, the band travels to Ansastudio (aha, a familiar place that) in 2009, to record their third demo. Then, the band stumbles upon Turku based guitarist Jussi Poikonen [known from the “Old Metal” band Queenstone, originally known as Crown and formed in 1997 – name change after one demo release under original name took place in 1999; band has since recorded 3 more demos and a 2006 promo (the latter also the band's latest release)], whom impresses the guys not only with his outstanding playing skills, but also with his musical vision and easy-going nature. The 3-track Away From The Watching Eye demo (mixed by Jori Haukio – of AnsaStudio, and I came across the two some weeks ago, reviewing the new Scythe Of Orion release, which was posted in a TSM/ SLW Promotion special in August of last) is released in early 2010, and not only is the band quite content with the sound they got, but they're also pleased with the praising critics the demo generates, as it confirms their new musical ideas. The band becomes more active on the live circuit, end up participating in the by Century Media organized Suomi Metal Star contest which they win in 2011, and the rest...is history in the writing!
When you listen to Oddland's music (check the songs “Above And Beyond” and “Flooding Light” - coincidence? They happen to be the album's first 2 tracks – at both the band's facebook and MySpace page), you'll have to admit that their Prog Metal IS different! Musically, there is perhaps an “older” feeling of musical freedom (harking back to the golden age of Prog Rock in the '70s), and he band is not afraid to incorporate a saxophone in two of their songs (first, played in a more conventional way in the aforementioned “Flooding Light”, then in a more open, Free-Jazz style-ish way in album closer “Ire”). Vocally there certainly is yet another difference, with Sakari's overall calmer approach. On that point the biography suggests his voice comes off as a mixture between Tool's Maynard Keenan and Faith No More's Mike Patton...a suggestion I prefer not to follow, as the resemblances are only temporary and fragmentary. Rather, I'd say he's git a nice voice all his own, with some more aggressive touches in the heavier parts of songs. The song “Sewers” brings a surprise on two ends. One being the participation of an undisclosed lady, and the other finding Sakari (if it is indeed him) going for that Death growl that the biography says is missing from Oddland music!
All in all, this is an album which should be revered by fans of Prog Metal and Prog Rock. And, the fact alone that the material needs time to grow on the listener should be proof of the quality entailed, right?