Arcane heavy metal is currently one of my favorite genres of music as it’s clouded in mystery but never never fails to deliver catchy riffs and powerful, idiosyncratic vocals. Cultists like Cauchemar, Atlantean Kodex or Realmbuilder all brought something different but substantial to this loose genre and this full length coming out from The Crypt explores some undiscovered themes with style and panache.
When I discover a band or an album, I do my research as I want to understand the historical context of a release in a discography. I also tend to explore the previous bands of the involved musicians as a full comprehension of an oeuvre within its timeline is important to me. I did none of those things for Odal. Sometimes it’s good to go in blind and get your ass kicked. Well, I got a beating! This album is apparently an experimental offering from the band that’s usually playing death metal (I have no idea if they’re good at it) and I hope they’re not done with heavy metal since it’s really damn good.
If you know me, you might know that I’m a sucker for long, epic tracks and they don’t disappoint here and the two numbers above ten minutes are showcasing nice ambient heavy metal tendencies. It’s intelligent epic heavy metal relying on strong atmospheres and bludgeoning but dreamy riffing. At times, they recall the epic long winded era of Bathory mixed with the fantasy storytelling of Quicksand Dream (I like to think the artwork is an hommage to their classic Aelin). Looming in the ethereal shadows, the NWOBHM’s gentle specter is always keeping watch and waiting for an opportunity to strike with intense dual guitar leads à la Murray and Smith. The Crypt is a band that takes its time and develops slow burning pieces of scorched metal and then tempers them in ice cold water. You also don’t feel that it’s a death metal band playing heavy metal, it’s not a silly lifeless project done as a gimmick.
It’s heavy metal played at various tempos but it’s always outgoing and dynamic. The airy and natural production definitely helps as well. I think the tone of the guitars and the quality of the riffing is what instantly hooked me but they’re so much more than that. The musicianship is top notch and never goes into “too much” territory. They’re good at mixing the loud and the quiet and several softer moments really make the band shine. I see it as a metaphor related to the sea, an ever changing personality full of unchained power and immense depth. Like a gigantic wave, it grabs you and never lets you go.
The plethora of guest vocals could had been an operatic mess like Avantasia or Ayreon but fortunately, it worked very well. The women bring a fresh take not unlike the recent works by Lethean or Iron Griffin and the male voices bring a subdued epic doom dimension. While it never lacks cohesion but at times it’s a bit uneven due to the diverse quality of the ensemble, there’s vocals that I really liked more than others such as those on “Palace of Broken Dreams” and some that didn’t really work such as “Quest Without End”. I ended up liking the tracks with female vocals more but that’s just me.
The compositions are rich as they delve inside an extensive lair garnished with many layers of metal. Inside a strong foundation of epic heavy metal, we can find epic doom and some sort of introspective progressive metal. From percussions on the calm closer “Moonlight” to the psychedelic stoner Om-ish feels of “The Lost Magics”, there’s a lot of diversity here. Similar to a room full of smoke and incense, it’s captivating and fills your entire mind with thoughts.
Highly evocative and sophisticated heavy metal blessed by the gods of the genre is what you’re getting here. Odal is definitely a jewel of 2019 metal. Don’t let it go unnoticed.
Album rating: 87
Favorite track: Palace of Broken Dreams