5 January 2024
Words by Lewd Scoff
The new album from Baltimore hard rockers THE ODDEVEN entitled Darkness is a masterclass in Southern meets North-West Americana hard rock. The band has had a couple of line-up changes since 2021’s Dance Of The Dead, including Chris Volz from Nu-metal stalwarts FLAW on lead vocals (for me, the straight-ahead style of ODDEVEN suits his voice, and he has a stronger presence) replacing session singer Robb Wise, and Tosha Jones (ex-Saliva) on drums who replaces the up to 7 drummers who sat in the stool until a permanent member could be found.
These line-up changes take the obvious ALICE IN CHAINS influence from the overall sound and leave us with a more southern rock vibe than what the previous releases (2020 E.P Space Juice and the aforementioned Dance Of The Dead). Lead single Whiskey has an accompanying film clip to let you get a good idea of where the band is at in 2023/24.
Having toured extensively with a who’s who of 80s hard rock Juggernauts such as SLAUGHTER, FASTER PUSSYCAT and even SOULFLY, has given the band the opportunity to really lay down some tasty chops that sit well in the modern music landscape and become their own beast, shedding the almost ‘super band’ epitaph associated with constant line-up changes.
But main-stayers Weed and E.T (bass and guitar respectively) have found a groove and after multiple listens shapes up better than their previous efforts.
So, with all that in mind, let’s hit up the album track by track. Solar Symphony has this awesome build up which is something missing from earlier releases and adds to the tension of the song when the kick-ass riff finally enters. ‘We’ll rise tonight in the sky to a Solar Symphony’ Volz sings in the chorus ably backed harmony wise by Weed and E, which is important to mention as their voices blend together really well and the decision to opt out of the stacked fourths (Alice In Chains harmonies) gives the band their own sound.
Whiskey is the lead single and has a nice thud groove to compliment the heaviest of drinking sessions. You really get a good sense of how solid Tosha Jones is as a drummer, with some ‘caveman’ yet tasty drum fills accompanying a four to the floor drum off.
You’re Free kicks in with some dirty slide guitar work that sets up a dedication to an ex lyrically to basically say ‘they’re free to go and be the Gronk they are.’ The second verse has a little nu-metal rapping which is a welcome piece of arsenal Chris Volz has brought with him from his tenure with FLAW.
Stardust Shadow is a sonic soundscape album break to give the ears a rest before more onslaught prevails. And by geez it does with the first double-time slammer on the album in the form of Another Nail. Probably my favourite track on the album, it gives off strong VELVET REVOLVER vibes with a solid drum performance that carries the song. Top quality rock and should be a single in my opinion.
The dissonant riff after the blast beat is pure magic, as are all the transitions in this piece. Could have had a huge breakdown and gone for another minute or so I say. Dust off the acoustic and let us get all emotional and pensive. That is what the song Home suggests and sits well as the sixth track. Southern sludge asking a lover to come home has never sounded so full sounding in the rhythm section. Although played fairly safe by all members, the song breathes well and would make a great concert sing-a-long.
Not ones to have huge elongated song intros, Wild West, gets straight to the point and delivers more of what the album offers as a whole: great songs played by great people. In the pocket and full of disenfranchised imagery.
Title track Darkness whispers ‘wake up’ in the intro, kicks in hard, then goes to this cumbersome feel that kind of falls short of the initial request. If I was dancing to this band live, and they played this album in track order as listed, this would be when I go to the bar for a drink. Great song, but all the ‘yeahs’ in the background and the juvenile lyrics make it the weakest song on the album as far as I am concerned. By this point, the guitar solos are also starting to sound the same, based on a pentatonic scale that has been done to death. But all is forgiven with the acapella section at the 4- minute mark. This should have been expanded upon and not just wrapped up with 2 lots of the same heavy passage to finish the song.
Take Me To Your Leader is another track filler and has the detuned vocal sample that appears periodically throughout the album. It fits with the slight Alien theme the band has always had, but other than that, sounds really dated.
And to round out what can be considered a high mid-tier album is 100th Monkey, which is like most of the songs on this album, mid-tempo thud, until the middle part when the hi-hats lead the groove and is actually quite interesting, building up to finest drumming on the album. Too little too late?
Perhaps. Hoping what the band does in the studio next time steps out of their comfort zone, and they become the great band I know they can be.
The album was produced by Frank Marchand (Fiona Apple, Nils Lofgren), and was mastered by Alan Douches (Mastodon, Monster Magnet, Fleetwood Mac). It will be released by Eclipse Records on January 5, 2024, with distribution via The Orchard.