Saturday, July 16, 2011

Oddzar - Ready the Chariot Album Review

I am a huge fan of progressive rock and alternative metal, especially when the two are combined together. I can't get enough of bands like Chevelle, Tool, 10 Years, and their brethren. With that in mind, I'll usually take on any album that falls into the same genre boundaries. Oddzar was one of those bands and I genuinely enjoyed this album when it came out, but unlike many other progressive alt-metal, it lost some of its luster with time. There wasn't quite enough there that was setting them apart. Still, I do think it was a good effort for the time and hope the band does put out more music in the future. This was originally published on October 14th, 2009.

Oddzar have taken a different route than many of their radio-friendly alt-metal peers; instead of watering down and glossing over their songs with production sheen, they’ve attempted to show that they are dynamic, diverse, and *gasp* interesting. It’s a bold move, and one that sometimes works but at other times doesn’t quite pan out. With only 9 tracks, this full length doesn’t feel so full and really doesn’t allow the band to fully flex their muscles.

What works best for Oddzar is their infusion into the standard alt-metal formula of various elements of other tangibly related metal sub-genres. Throughout many of the songs, especially the longer 5+ minute tracks, you get a strong Tool-lite vibe, somewhat in the vein of early Chevelle or Earshot. The longest track on the album, the title track, clocks in at nearly 6 and a half minutes and uses a nice combination of Tool influenced guitars, emotive crooning, and a very solid song structure with well defined peaks and valleys. Many other tracks follow this pattern, but not too explicitly as to make the album overly monotonous.

Adding to the intrigue of the band are Russ Eckell’s vocals. Sounding extremely similar to Stavesacre’s Mark Salomon, Eckell has a full voice that works well for the elongated singing style he employs. The only downside to his vocal work comes when he is obviously stretching for some higher register notes at the ends of certain forceful passages. He doesn’t quite have the range he is striving to use at those moments, but thankfully it isn’t an issue very often. Also, quite thankfully, there is no unneeded screaming to be found, which is a rarity nowadays since every heavy band feels it essential to at least toss in a token scream here or there. There are the occasional backup screams mimicking a sung chorus, but they’re so low in the mix you’ll rarely hear them.

I mentioned previously that the album decently diverse, which can be chalked up to the insertion of unique elements in different songs, be it the marching drums used in “Reign”, the acoustic build-up of “Demur”, or the guitar solo in “Sake’s End”, there are pieces of many of the songs that help set them apart from the rest of the album's contents. Even so, the band’s general songwriting approach is to keep the songs slower paced (with only short moments of sped up tempos), thick, and not straying too far from a standard alt-metal song structure (despite their obvious want to experiment). It would be spectacular to see this band really go balls out and ignore the confines of the genre they play in. Ready the Chariot hints at a lot of untapped talent that could be unlocked if they let themselves truly explore all of their capabilities.

Keeping in mind the confines of the genre they play in, this really is a great album. If Oddzar had a large label with a solid promotion budget behind them, you would no doubt be hearing this band all over the place. As it is, they’re a great independent band that hopefully more and more people will give a chance to based simply upon the fact that they’re a solid band that plays good songs.

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