REVIEW: Oddland – Vermilion

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It shall be confirmed beyond any doubt that the progressive metal album, “The Treachery of Senses,” released in 2012 by the Finnish progster bunch, ODDLAND, was one of the best prog-metal outings ever released in this country. Maybe it was not merely “one” of the best – but THE best. It was a baffling display of progressive brilliance to such a thrilling degree that I couldn’t even mind, in retrospect, that these proggy ruffians scooped the first prize in the Suomi Metal Star 2011 contest (in which my band at the time also participated). It was a title well deserved for this Turku-based prog squad! Now, the pedigree status of their haunting debut might be endangered, however. The thing is: ODDLAND just released their third studio album, “Vermilion”, via their new record label, Uprising! Records, on March 11th, 2022. Six years after their predominantly djenty sophomore album, “Origin” (2016), these prog magicians seem to return to the sonic realms of their debut – but with all the newfound songwriting wisdom acquired over the years. “Vermilion” is truly a mind-altering rollercoaster ride of meaty prog-grooves, aggressive metal riffs, and exciting new shades – such as the Latin vibes on “Vermilion Pt.4: Feed the Void.” In true prog fashion, the title track is split into five parts and the album-length is closer to the vinyl-era prog offerings than the long-winded, modern-day, digital prog monoliths. The new album is such a coherent, mind-bending endeavor in excellence that maybe it is the very album that will push their debut off the pedestal as the best Finnish prog-metal effort so far.

The five-chunk prog suite begins the album with the brief, introductory part, “Vermilion Pt.1: Arrival.” Classically-tinged piano leads to a nonchalant motif played in unison by the guitar and the clarinet against the atmospheric backdrop that would find a good home on any TESSERACT album, no doubt. The transition from the intro to the second part of the suite, “Vermilion Pt.2: Below,” is marked by a deliciously oriental motif, first played a few times with a sitar. Oh, yes! The second movement is layered thick with slow-burning prog mysticism. The vocalist, Sakari Ojanen, joins in on this track – and it needs to be said that he has nothing short of impressive style, balancing between the evil, heavy-metal grunts and the somewhat Devin Townsend -esque ”bel canto” crooning. If I was to describe the band to a newbie, I think “MESHUGGAH playing Miles Davis with Frank Sinatra on vocals” could hit quite close.

The third movement, “Vermilion Pt.3: The Walls of the Mind,” sneaks up on you with a cinematic piano intro that soon mutates into a hearty serving of djenty riff-mayhem before fading into the distance with a lengthy ambient coda. If there is one thing that you cannot really blame these metal rogues for, it is the lack of audacity to do whatever they like! It becomes even more apparent on the fourth part of the suite, “Vermilion Pt.4: Feed the Void.” You see, there are two things that usually don’t mix very well: Slavic melancholy and somewhat sun-dried Latin music vibes. ODDLAND shows here quite the contrary! The Latin feeling of the acoustic break, pronounced further by the reversed vocals channeling some Middle Eastern desert spirits, works wonders in their prog-metal framework!

The last movement of the suite, “Vermilion Pt.5: Emancipator,” is built upon a mesmerizing synth motif that resonates with the air of both TANGERINE DREAM and MARILLION. With the added flavors of the djenty guitar riffs, the versatile crooning of Ojanen, and some cinematic piano ornaments, the song is but a perfect closure to the epic.

After such an onslaught of pure prog-metal power, a breather is in order. Enter “Pathway.” It is an acoustic meditation that may trigger rather pleasant OPETH flashbacks here and there and leads to the primal MESHUGGAH-inspired riffage of “Resonance.” The brutal riffing is nicely balanced by the atmospheric verses. ODDLAND is one of those bands whose forté lies in the beauty of the contrast. It was apparent already on their debut, what with songs such as “In the Eyes of the Mourning” and “Sewers” – and with the gears of time, their undisputed talent for creating hauntingly contrasted musical pieces seems to only have grown better.

The album ends with another rollercoaster ride, the 6-minute riffathon, “Unity.” The song serves as yet another calling card for the band’s knack for writing strong melodies. On occasion, the melancholic twists and turns are slightly reminiscent of bands such as SOEN. Then again, I guess it is a trait that all Scandinavian metal bands have in common.

Formed in 2003 in Turku, Finland, ODDLAND has come a long way from the grunge leanings of their formative years to the shimmering prog of their latest offering. Ever since their magnificent debut, they have been worthy of joining the metal pantheon inhabited by greats such as PAIN OF SALVATION, MESHUGGAH, PERIPHERY, and Devin Townsend. Maybe it’s too early to hail “Vermilion” as the best prog-metal album ever released in Finland but, at least, it is sure to get us peevish metal fans and mischievous little prog-cherubims grinning like the Cheshire Cat. It does have all the makings of an album that might grow into a future classic one day.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Vermilion Pt.1: Arrival
  2. Vermilion Pt.2: Below
  3. Vermilion Pt.3: The Walls of the Mind
  4. Vermilion Pt.4: Feed the Void
  5. Vermilion Pt.5: Emancipator
  6. Pathway
  7. Resonance
  8. Unity

Lineup

Sakari Ojanen – vocals, guitars

Jussi Poikonen – guitars

Ville Viitanen – drums

Joni Palmroth – bass

Label

Uprising! Records

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