Meet Finnish progressive metal band, Oddland. Their new album, ‘Origin,’ just came out early this September, and I am not afraid to say that it was one of my favorite surprises this year. I wasn’t sure what to expect pressing play, and even when I thought I had a handle on it with the opening Meshuggah-esque grooves they threw me for a loop once more with powerful clean vocals. ‘Origin’ is a very different experience, combining many different styles and genres. Given the unique nature of this record, I was pleased to get a chance to pick the brains of those involved.
TO: ‘Origin’ was recorded at Fantom Studio (Insomnium, Korpiklaani, Oranssi Pazuzu) and mixed and mastered by Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah, In Flames, Dimmu Borgir). Tell us a bit about what it was like recording there and working with Daniel.
We used Fantom Studio for the first album as well, so the place and Samu Oittinen were familiar to us. It’s a very high quality studio so the choice was easy. We used the studio for tracking drums exclusively and the raw tracks were excellent quality. There was an audio engineering intern (Ville-Eemeli Puurtinen) helping us a lot with the engineering and tolerating our madness within the studio walls. We practically lived at the studio for the week recording the drums. You sort of get into a weird bubble when you’re staying at a studio focusing only on recording. Things can get a little weird, haha.
Working on the mix with Daniel was interesting. He had a clear vision of what he wanted to do with the mix after hearing our wishes and references. Then he went ahead and made it happen. He emphasised some things that we didn’t expect and really brought forth his own vision and input into the sound of the album. We wanted low and heavy, and that’s what we got. Of course the shift to 7-strings also weighed into the transition into lower grooves but it was really brought to life by Daniel. Joni also tried to craft his bass sound to really resonate in your belly.
TO: You have mentioned that creating this album took a lot longer than expected. Why the delay?
We had all the songs nearly finished during 2014 already, but then started the endless series of iterations and fine-tunings that got a little out of hand in hindsight and it was also a bit taxing to continuously modify the compositions. Mostly it was smaller details but also full parts. For example the chorus in Will has maybe 10 different versions that aren’t just slight modifications of the original. Actually the final part of the song was initially one of the ideas for a chorus. So that kind of process really took time. Finding the right label to partner with for the release also added about 6 months into the schedule.
TO: Would you say the experience was different from working on the previous album?
This was harder. Not because we had trouble coming up with ideas for songs. We’re quite productive in that sense but finding the right compromise between differing opinions was the hard part. Of course we’ve always been that way when composing but maybe the timetable here also put strain into the process. For the first album we had all those years before to let the songs evolve. For the next album I think we’re going to try a different approach to the writing.
TO: Each track on this album has an associated image. Tell us about the artwork from Mohammed Essam. What is the meaning and how do these pieces connect to the music?
It was actually the artist’s idea to create a dedicated image to match each song. He listened to the songs thoroughly and was actually the first person outside the band to hear all the songs. Then we gave him a general idea about what the lyrics are about and he added his artistic interpretation of how the music and the message resonated in him. It was really quite an exciting process. The idea that all these intersecting creative processes (the music, the lyrics, the art) will receive yet another layer when the listener adds his/her individual experience listening to the song/lyrics while sinking into the world that the art further evokes, is very intriguing and satisfying. So many levels and possibilities there.
TO: More generally, is there a concept or story to this album. You have mentioned talking about where we come from, but is it more specific than that?
It is really quite unspecific, the starting points to the songs are experiences that have been meaningful and important to us. Things that have made us what we are. The concept of the album is rather that it is personal, but what may be a little different is that it includes every member. It’s not just reflecting my personal matters, but I channeled ideas into lyrics from all the guys.
TO: In my own review, I compared your music to an eclectic group of bands: Ihsahn, Opeth, and Sevendust. And with the low end guitars I might even through in a dash of Meshuggah. Who would you consider to be your strongest influences; both in terms of instrumentation and vocals?
Well in terms of instrumentation we would have to admit guilty on three accounts: Ihsahn, Opeth and Meshuggah. Another slightly surprising favourite among the band is Primus, which you can’t probably hear so clearly on this album, but even though ‘Origin’ is rather dark we feel there are some moments where a little bit of that “crazy” vibe also raises its head. Even though the vocals get a lot of comparisons to Opeth, that’s not nearly the full story. A lot of the vocalists that have influenced my style are singers that have touched me on an emotional level. For me this has meant influences like Jeff Buckley, Scott Weiland, Chris Cornell and Layne Staley. At their best those guys really embody how singing is more about conveying an experience to the listener rather than just technically performing the notes to perfection (even though those guys are not shorthanded in that area either…). So that’s what I really tried to achieve vocal-wise.
TO: The resulting mixture of genres here strikes me as very unique. Do you set out to sound different, or is it something that naturally occurs?
Sure, I don’t think it would be too far fetched to say that we try to sound a bit different. But it happens without pushing too much. We try to make the music sound interesting and many times this means avoiding the clichés and things that have been done a thousand times before. We steer away from the exclusive growling vocals, although I bet they wouldn’t sound out of place if they were there. Often growls seem to be the easy way out. Not always of course; when done to the right effect, they can be extremely powerful. But I think they can easily make a band sound a bit generic.
TO: Weigh in: is “djent” a thing?
Blah, I don’t think there’s any denying that. It’s become so widely used and known that it’s a part of metal vocabulary nowadays. For me the word has grown to have mostly negative connotations however, mainly because of the sea of bands just replicating the same thing and sound over and over again. Djent spurs an audio image into the mind that consists of highly compressed everything, a passage played to 4/4 with the drums, while the riff goes to something like 16/4 and with loads of syncopation. Maybe in the broader sense, it might cover a type of rhythmic emphasis and complicated grooves, that’s what I try to think when the term is associated with us 😉
TO: How, if at all, do you feel your native Finland plays into your music as a band?
We are all children of the universe… just kidding 🙂 There’s this new term “Nordic Prog” that’s been thrown around with bands like Ihsahn, Opeth, Leprous, Katatonia, Pain of Salvation, Oddland, etc. and I think that really refers to a sort of similar melancholy atmosphere with those bands. So being Nordic and Finnish probably does have some kind of effect. I think there really is some kind of similarity in terms of atmosphere, although it would be hard to pinpoint exactly what it is.
TO: Your last album was recorded with Century Media. Why the switch to Sensory Records?
Century Media got rid of a bunch of smaller bands and we got kicked out with this same large boot. Then we were left without a home and got into touch with a bunch of labels and ended up signing a deal with one of our A-list candidates: Lasers Edge/Sensory Records. They have a great roster and we’re proud to be a part of it! No hard feelings with CM, we learned so much about the industry from our time with them.
TO: You have played with many bands on tour including Soen, Leprous, Swallow the Sun, Omnium Gatherum, and Amoral. Who has been your favorite to play with and why?
We would have to choose Soen, mainly because those are the guys we’ve hanged around with the most during our shows together. They are really a friendly and kind “down to earth” -bunch that are just good and sensible people to be around.
TO: How about favorite country to tour in?
So far we would have to say the Netherlands, because that’s where we’ve had our most successful shows so far with Headway Festival and Progpower Europe 2013.
TO: Any amusing stories from the road?
We played a one-off show in Lithuania in 2013. The show was good fun and afterwards our drummer disappeared into the night only to return the next morning having had a small romance with a Lithuanian dame and roamed the beautiful Vilnius through the night. We were staying at this aged hostel where an old Lithuanian lady was in charge. The next morning when our drummer returned “a bit” hungover she attacked him with ferocious hand signals shouting “Latvia! Latvia! Latvia!”. Needless to say, our poor drummer was a little thrown off by her attempts to communicate something. She didn’t know any English and Ville wasn’t probably at his very best communication level after a night of rich experiences and tired eyes. Finally it became clear that the lady tried to tell our Casanova that there was a group of girls from Latvia staying at one end of the hostel, using the showers, etc. and she wanted us and our no good shenanigans to stay out of there. This incident gave many laughs on the trip back home.
TO: Who would you most love to play with in the future?
There are so many bands that would be cool to accompany for a tour. Right now if I had to pick one it would be Ihsahn. He’s so awesome live.
TO: Shout out ONE metal band that you think that our readers should check out and why.
Absolutely, I will use this one for a band I’m almost sure most of you aren’t aware of. Amendfoil are buddies of ours from Finland and they have some really high quality, infectious stuff. Check them out, I’m sure they won’t disappoint.
TO: What comes next for Oddland?
We really want to do a tour in Europe next year. We’ve played shows abroad, but we would love to do a longer stretch with a well known band. There have been a lot of discussions over the years – you wouldn’t believe – but the plans have ended up just falling short. Touring is something we really need to do so we’re hoping something comes up. Loud Noise Agency is helping us in the process. Also we’re planning a music video of “Skylines” to further boost the release. And also some playthrough video stuff is coming. And slowly we’re growing the thirst to start working on new songs, but for now we have our hands full promoting Origin.
TO: Anything else before we wrap up?
There’s a special limited edition vinyl available at our store oddland.bigcartel.com. That’s the way to go if you want to really experience the album to its full potential. It has a 12’ booklet to thoroughly enjoy the dedicated art pieces and of course it was mastered separately for vinyl at Dugout to really make your eardrums bleed honey 🙂
‘Origin’ is available right now. Stream and purchase below.