As far as tech death goes I’m not big on the insane extremes bands like Archspire take or whatever the hell Allegaeon did on their latest album that caused me to give up halfway through. Although experimentation is fantastic, amalgamating sounds and hoping it sounds like tech death is just not something I’m going to put myself through. On the other side of the spectrum, a band who has been MIA for a while should be able update their sound and test what else is out there when it comes to insanity levels and a fretless bass. Thus, when a band like Odious Mortem returns with Synesthesia, I have an expectation of grounded innovation, as if they really took the time to fully plant themselves into what they missed. They did that, but, to an extent.
What I enjoy about Synesthesia is that it lacks the frills and insanity of what current tech death is doing. These guys are committed to the craft of making music, playing dizzying riffs that are heavy in tone while also remaining exceptionally cohesive. When going through extremes of the genre bands can get incredibly mathematical, where playing a 32-second note becomes a lifeline. Odious Mortem does the opposite: they play a style of death metal that feels a lot like Golgothan Remains rather than Obscura, focusing more on the melodic backing while remaining dirty. I can’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable during some parts of this album despite their focus on melody. For example; on the aptly-named “Cave Dweller,” the music feels putrid, covered with this yellow haze that’s just grimy on your ears. Given that the album title references how one cognitive aspect of your brain allows for another sensory experience to occur, I can’t help but feel this song is very yellow. It feels grimy and gross, heightened by the uneven vocals.
Speaking of actual synesthesia, this album is a myriad of colors and tones that works incredibly well. While “Cave Dweller” has a yellow haze, the first half of “Synchronicity” is this bright crystal blue – clear in tonality and in melody – before the guitars and drums come in and it slowly materializes in this green hue that ebbs and flows between forest and opaque. It’s a delight to the senses, and one may perceive it differently depending on their type of synesthesia.
However, Synesthesia’s biggest issue may be its production, as it doesn’t work with their instrumentality. Their overall mix seems decayed and almost colorless which doesn’t work well with the ebb and flow of color that the band is adept in employing. It makes the album sound tired, as if this was a highlight reel that came out of a time capsule and never got an update. I’m not sure if this was the band’s choice or if something happened during Synesthesia’s production/mixing phase but it feels incomplete, which is a shame. I want to like this album, but its production quality makes it a difficult listen.
All in all, Synesthesia is a wicked album that suffers from bad production choices. While it stands out for lack of any modern tech death tropes, a la Obscura or Archspire, it suffers from a low-quality production that makes the music sound muddled. Despite these choices, Synesthesia is a good return to form for a band who’s been on hiatus for more than a decade and I expect them to eventually update their sound in order to somewhat catch up with what tech death bands are doing today.