Odious - Skin Age - (9/10)
Published on February 21, 2016
Many bands are being labelled “symphonic black metal”, but one thing many of them have in common is that most, if not all, of the orchestration comes from the can. Sure, some keyboard wizards manage to make them sound surprisingly real, but in most cases it is pretty clear where the symphonic edge comes from. Enter Egyptian Odious and their 2nd album Skin Age, coming via the previously pretty much unknown Greek The Leaders Records label. And the Alexandria based band puts the label “symphonic” on their Egyptian folklore influenced black/death metal in capital letters!
As mentioned, many so-called symphonic bands utilize synthesizers to create a pseudo classical atmosphere, but Odious went all out and employed the FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague, which also has has had an appearance on Blind Guardian’s latest effort Beyond the Red Mirror, giving the eight songs of their second album (mere eight years after their debut) a completely new dimension, which on top of this is also excellently integrated into their overall sound. So Skin Age is a completely different kind of beast when it comes to orchestration.
And while the black/death metal flows strong (especially in Bassem Fakhri’s vocal delivery), the symphonic side of Odious’ sound lends a very dramatic flair, which is clear from the get-go of opener “Crown of Centuries”. Not only does the orchestra definitely add to the song, but the constant shifts within the song generate dynamics and this arc that holds the whole thing together. On some tracks traditional Egyptian folk instruments, such as oud and nay, also come into play, adding even more authenticity to the Egyptians’ sound and Fakhri really shows the level of accomplishment he has in creating cohesive, dramatic and variable tracks that form a big whole. “A Picture of Dead Art” is the track, where all of this comes together with very well implemented choirs making this an oriental symphonic black/death metal masterpiece.
“AlZar” takes the oriental influence even further, at times invoking images of ancient Egypt, but “All the Evidence” takes the cake in terms of symphonic, because here the balance between the orchestration and the metal part is the probably most exuberant, in this case invoking images of a big concert hall and a play with this song as the sound track, which continues on into “New Mystery”, where Odious continue to explore this grand, epic feeling and spice it up with some additional choirs, and excellent “Dungeon Keys”.
Add to this an extraordinarily clear production and Odious have usurped Egypt’s metal throne (in all fairness not all that difficult), but also have staked their claim to the status of Africa’s premier metal band. Symphonic? Check. Egyptian? Check. Metal? Check. Execution? Outstanding. Verdict? A must for any fan of the described style elements!