Jul 092010

Sadly, we now come to the end of our 3-part post on Metal From North Africa, though we will revisit the subject in the future. To close this out, we’re back to Egypt, where we started, and a band called Odious.

Odious has been around since 1998, and as best we can tell, they were one of the first Egyptian extreme metal bands to release a professional album — 2007’s Mirror of Vibrations. Before that, they self-released and distributed a demo EP called Summoned by Night, which led to their signing in 2005 by a Greek label called Sleaszy Rider Records and the release of that 2007 album.

Of all the music we’ve reviewed in this survey, it’s probably the most challenging to hear, but it may be the most interesting. It’s the most uncompromisingly faithful to traditional black metal, but also the music that most heavily incorporates not only oriental music but also traditional instruments.  (more after the jump . . .)

Make no mistake: This music is first and foremost black metal, with the kind of particularly vicious, abraded vocals you would expect from this genre and a raw production mix that flays open the senses and then pours alcohol into the wound.

The guitar work is fast, though not completely devoted to tremolo picking, and the use of keyboards, though sparing, gives the music an atmospheric air. The bass end of the register is significantly diminished in the mix.

But the fidelity of Odious to traditional black metal only goes so far, because the band is equally devoted to traditional eastern music. Oriental rhythms and melodies are ever-present in the songs, and the band makes extensive use of instruments like the oud — a bulbous stringed instrument — and something called the darabokka, or tablah, which is a hand drum.

I’m not sure what it is about black metal that lends itself to the incorporation of indigenous melodies and instruments, or about black metal bands that cause them to do this, but so far this year I’ve seen it in the new albums from Rotting Christ (Greece) and Negura Bunget (Romania), and now I’ve heard it in Mirror of Vibrations.

It’s a phenomenon that certainly keeps the sub-genre interesting, and I think it makes the album from Odious worth your time.

The Sleaszy Rider web site indicates that Odious will have a forthcoming release called Skin Age, which is cool news, though it’s unclear when that will happen.

You can order the album from Sleaszy Rider or from an Australian outfit called Left As In Sinister Records at this location.  Here’s a track for you to check out:

Odious: Smile in Vacuum Warnings

  7 Responses to “METAL FROM NORTH AFRICA (Part 3): ODIOUS”

  1. I like it.

    By your description, I was a bit worried before I hit play that this would sound like shit because of a muddy and deliberate craptacular production. But this is far from the kind of sound (Oriental elements aside) that some black metal bands insist on putting to album. It’s listenable and you can actually hear the band and what they’re doing.

    The vocals aren’t among my favorite (and no, I don’t always prefer “clean” singing/vocals), but they are of a variety like what I mentioned about some of the songs from French Faces Of Gore; you can tell that there are words in there and it’s not just extra noise on top of the music with some shifting in it to suggest something. I can’t make anything out (it doesn’t help that I have two fans going and there are lawnmowers buzzing outside), but that’s never been much of an issue for me before and it’s not going to be now.

    And musically speaking, this kicks ass. Nice mix of metal and traditional instruments and melodies. That part in the middle that starts at 3:40 is so many shades of awesome, but likely something that might turn off many a close-minded metalhead. Of course, it’s only one part of an overall great song.

    I would have to hear more than this song to make a judgment and decide what list to put it on and about where to place them, but I’d say Odious gets a second listen (or third, fourth, whatever) from me in the future.

    Anyhoo, thanks for digging up these bands. Some great stuff worth checking out if you’re looking for something a bit different than most of what’s out there. Then again, with the way metal is these days, there’s a lot more ground being covered, by many more bands from many more countries. How many other genres of music have the kind of diversity that metal has, especially now? None.

    • I listen to almost no music any more that isn’t metal, so I can’t do a very good job comparing. But I absolutely believe that there’s an immense variety of music in the world of metal, and that the sound continues to evolve, not just where I live but all over the world. The more I listen, the more amazed I am about the diversity. Which is one reason I get so fucking frustrated when I hear non-metalheads just lump it all together and call it “noise.”

  2. For some reason, I can’t get your links to work on my computer at work. So, I pulled up the Odious Myspace page http://www.myspace.com/odiousegypt, which only has two tracks, neither are the one you have available for us to listen to. I will am going to have to check out more to be able to get a better read on them. The two songs seemed like the standard black metal, with the only thing to differentiate being the oriental themes, which is a nice change of pace, but the song structures need more originality. There is nothing to set them apart other than the few times they break out the indigenous instruments.

    • Wish I knew why you couldn’t get the link to work — though if and when you do listen to the featured track, it may not change your mind. It’s one of my two favorites on the album, but it may not be enough to hook you. I admit that one of the things I like about this band (and the others in this series) is the oriental influence, because it’s different. It’s hard for me to separate that out and imagine what the music would be like without it and whether I’d still think the band is worth hearing.

      • Don’t worry about the link thing. I don’t have the right software installed for it to work, and we are blocked from installing new software on our computers. It works at home, which is all that matters.

        About the whole generic black metal thing; its possible I was distracted just enough not to catch the nuances. It’s one of the things I hate about trying to listen to new music at work. Somebody is always interrupting me; askling me bullshit questions. So I will give it another go, when I can listen in the privacy of my own house. As long as the wife doesn’t start nagging me about having the headphones on and not paying attention to her. And I hope you have enjoyed the stuff I sent you. Have a good weekend and I hope the new music turns your brains to a gooey puddle. That’s when you know its been done right.

      • Okay, after going back and listening to “Smile in Vacuum Warnings”, I have to say that I am going to give this band another chance. This song has so much more depth than the two on their myspace page. “Oriental Black Metal” is a very intriguing description and hopefully we can hear something new from them soon.

        • Your comments pretty much captured what I’m thinking. The fascination level for me is not 100 percent consistent, but there are bursts of brilliance that make me want to hear what comes next.

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