Okay, I confess. I am a sucker for great album covers. And Vokonis‘ new piece Odyssey just made me pick up that record by the sheer force of its art. A bird that is about to be swallowed by THE VORTEX1) with ethereal floating cities as companions? It’s as psychedelic as they come. And we loved every pixel of it.
Invitations to weirdo country with a soundscape on steroids full of spacey, psychedelic electronica. That’s what it suggests, right? Or is the vortex there to channel those annoying shouted vocals a bit better? Questions, and still more questions.
And don’t we like a band with a swagger. Vokonis state that they wish to – and I quote – “…further expand the prog landscape.” Plus, they made a record that is – “…more dynamically diverse and forward-thinking than ever before.” ‘Kay, but what is forward-thinking in a retro-prog piece? And there’s more. They actually want to go for – “…the domination of the heavy underground.” Wow. These folks surely generate expectations with some global goals right there.
But what did Odyssey actually deliver?
Well, the record would probably sail straight into the murky waters of the RMR review nirvana. If only those aforementioned dreadful shouted vocals wouldn’t appear at any given inopportune moment of the tracklist.
You see, I get it. It’s the vocalist’s style and all that. And sludge-screams are part of the famed artistic freedom thing and also – apparently – of Vokonis‘ DNA. Yet, quite often those kinds of vocals won’t add a bunch of quality to a record, as we already opined in earlier reviews. And here, the more melodic clears by far outpace the shouted ones. Actually, astonishingly so.
And – by Loki’s miserable minions – Odyssey even sports actual good quality growls. Those – already – give a pretty cool counterweight to whatever clears appear on the vinyl. So, why the band adds vocal overload to the mix with that screamed nonsense, I cannot fathom.
But let’s put these woes aside for a moment.
Because Vokonis here got a pretty tasty grind slapped on their Odyssey. And that starts with Rebellion which comes on a foundation of straightforward and unforgiving rock. With a bunch of riffs that could very well shame (or inspire) Heavy Metal out there. And it delivers a first taste of those aggressive growls that we truly relished, too. In other words, Vokonis waste no second to be heard.
Odyssey is definitely not your traditional Progressive Metal piece, nor is it truly out of the box. The band packed that record full of a number of style directions. Some weedy stoner delights go with that sludgy doom that often appears. Then Vokonis slather everything in laid-back solos and equally outstanding riffs. Some of them with that weedy almost bluesy quality that we won’t often find these days anymore. There’s true mastery in this record, and these gentlemen really know their way around their instruments.
Tracks like the epic Through the Depths really throw all but the kitchen sink at the audience with that abundance of technicality this band is capable of. And you know what? The shouted lyrics suddenly sport a different tonality there, one that works much better, and is – surprise – pretty reminiscent of what we hear from masters of that art. But we truly relished the laid-back bluesy and outstanding riffing, and – for sure – that absolutely sublime monster of a solo. That is one hell of a track that showcases a band in its prime. And we should have had more of that.
Or take Blackened Wings which comes with that snazzy sing-along chorus and outstanding riff patterns that really made us listen up. Odyssey is full of them, by the way. Probably enough to fill an instrumental record all by itself. And truly, the record takes on steam as the B-side progresses. With ever more neat little nuggets that appear straight out of the left field.
But let’s draw a line here, lest we continue to waste ink forever.
Vokonis delivered some sort of a multi-faceted brand of Heavy Rock with a truckload of metal to go with it. A somewhat pig-headed piece of neo-prog that thrives on a ton of meaty, heavy, and pretty chunky groove. One that relentlessly bores down at ye like that proverbial freight train. All of that goodness done just right on the overheated BBQ of subdued ’70s rock’n’roll with benefits. One that likes to use an abundance of fuzz that is often fueled by an overgrown Hammond sound, seconded by good ol’ mellotrons.
So, Odyssey finally got on our good side, shouty vocals notwithstanding. And we’re kinda unhappy that the RMR crew here wasn’t able to like the record as much as others apparently did. Also, Vokonis here might still have some work before them until they can dominate the “…heavy underground.” But hey, that’s called progress – and I am sure this band will be back with more of their own very own brand in the future.
As well as they should.
|1.||Ah, another unsolved mystery. They abound in metal lore.|