(TheMadIsraeli is the author of this review of the new album by Odd Logic.)
I always try to put some serious thought into why an exception to the rule should be an exception to the rule here at NCS. I confess that sometimes it really comes down to the fact that I just like the album, and fuck the rules and the site and blah blah blah, but for the most part I believe there is an integrity that the NCS brand, as it were, has an obligation to maintain. I’ve basically boiled it down to three things that help me decide what a good exception to our rule is. Any one, or a combination, of these three:
A: The music is sufficiently heavy without extreme metal vocals.
B: The music is extreme in either virtuosity, progressiveness, pretentiousness, or eccentricity, despite the absence of harsh vocals.
C: The writing of music around clean vocals offers definitively different avenues of instrumental expression. Any band that really understands and gets this on a transcendent level is an exception.
Tacoma-based Odd Logic are B and C but not A. Effigy is their 7th record.
I’m pretty astonished that I haven’t heard of this band before, because based off this album they are some of the finest I’ve heard in the traditional prog-metal sphere. Traditional, REAL prog metal is something kind of lost in translation right now due to how djent, in its attempt to maintain a semblance of musical legitimacy and relevance, has hijacked the term “prog metal”. This has helped prevent some astonishing talent coming out of puritan old-school prog metal groups like Gods Of Eden, Fractal Cypher, and Odd Logic from getting noticed on a proper level.
The thing that this style offers, and the reason it still matters as a sub-genre of metal, is that prog is the ultimate exercise in technicality on all fronts. At its best, it’s mechanically technical, it’s exceptionally well-written and defies songwriting convention in a poetic way, it’s intricately layered, and it does all this while still having that power and intensity that’s exclusive to metal in general. To actually write music that’s successful on all these levels (as I know from experience, and from talking to musicians in bands we’ve covered on this very site) is almost impossibly difficult.
It matters when a band can do this well. It’s an immense accomplishment. The predominantly clean vocals in this style also matter. You not only have to make those vocal melodies memorable, but you also have to compensate for an ever-flowing song that doesn’t revisit the same sections, at least not in a literal sense. You might reprise a section, but if a prog metal band does this right, it’s a reinterpretation of a previous part, not a copy-paste of what they did previously, and that requires new vocal rhythms and adjusted melodies to compensate.
The vocals in traditional prog metal truly are an additional instrument that weaves in and out of the rest of the music. They aren’t simply a means of expressing the lyrics.
So, with my little ranting discourse about prog metal in general out of the way, I’ll come to the point that Odd Logic and Effigy are immensely impressive. Combining the technical virtuosity and song lengths of Dream Theater with the more refined and storytelling-esque songwriting of Pain Of Salvation, while being ultimately heavier than both, the Seattle three-piece has inspired me to go check out their back catalogue.
Main-man vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Sean Thompson is a really accomplished songwriter, but as the guy who manages all three of those aspects of the music, he’s able to create an otherworldly unity in how they all overlap and integrate with each other.
Mike Lee is an impressive bassist who is a master of the “follow the baseline and embellish when proper” school, and drummer Pete Hanson knows how to write propulsive grooves with intricacy and an indisputable flow to them. Being a three-piece may not be practical in terms of replicating on stage what’s heard on a record, but there’s no doubt that three-pieces can tend to have insanely tight, focused writing, which is an absolute assist to the ambitious nature of this band’s music.
Sean Thompson’s soaring vocals have hefty emotive power behind them, and he also has a bestial death growl that he’ll bring out on occasion on tracks such as “Mercenary”. His riffs are pristine, otherworldly, and as emotive as his vocals. While he’s undeniably writing metal riffs, he’s also always fringing on metallic jazz fusion, with ebbing and flowing melodies that evolve as they progress. His keyboard work also uses tones I can appreciate; I’m a sucker for the ’70s Hammond organ tone, something consistently employed on this album.
When they aren’t engaging in apocalyptic death thrash with a side of operatic Shakespearean tragedy as in “Mercenary”, they undertake insane prog epics like the SEVENTEEN MINUTE LONG opener and title track, which is essentially an experiment in consistently revising and reinterpreting the same four minutes of music over and over again. Other songs like “Master Of The Moor” and “Witch Runner” are gorgeous examples of what metallic introspection sounds like.
Every song on this album is a journey, as it properly should be. The peaks and the valleys are all there, refined, and like a gorgeous painting for the ears to gaze upon.
Prog metal is still alive, and Odd Logic are at the top of that heap. Effigy is a fantastic album, sure to be a highlight of the year and definitely one of the strongest releases of January.