Odious Mortem – Synesthesia (2020)REVIEW

Kinesthetic in their approach compared to countless dryly mathematical peers, Bay Area brutalists Odious Mortem found themselves notable as the mid-2000’s slide towards increasingly technical death metal bulldozed the hard-wrought brutal death metal boon dusted up in the first half of that decade. Housed by the underground’s biggest castle of the era, Unique Leader, and with Matt Sotelo of Decrepit Birth on the knobs, ‘Devouring the Prophecy’ was a statement of smartly balanced ‘dumb’ extremity in 2005. That debut might appear clunky and unremarkable to the less discerning ear today but at the time it’d been an important example of how technicality can enhance the impact of brutal death rather than simply dress it up. Hell, I wasn’t on board for it at the time and it’d be the second album (‘Cryptic Implosion‘, 2007) that got me to buy a CD and show up for one of their tours. I don’t know how important it is to suss out or speculate why it took thirteen years to gear up for this third full-length, ‘Synesthesia’, but most of the line-up would prioritize their presence (live or in-studio) for Decrepit Birth‘s second and third albums. It arrives familiar in effect but transmogrified in expression, a stellarly example of underground brutal death metal slashed out by way of a torrential and frantically paced technical death metal monolith.

Lightning struck and charged with celestial static, this third Odious Mortem record boils as if poured molten a half-decade ago and tempered with a great screaming hiss today. In fact that isn’t too far from reality as the development of ‘Synesthesia’ was hinted at on Facebook as early as 2013 and in pre-production throughout 2014. It isn’t as if there were some elephant in the room, no obvious problem with the progress of the album, it’d just taken several years to complete and I’d cease wondering why as soon as the first few riffs of “Dormant Retribution” slid my way. I do not have ‘air rhythm guitar’ moments often anymore but I’ll admit this was one of them. Though the influences are still clear as day the riffcraft writ between drummer/guitarist KC Howard and crew is distinct within their otherworldly sphere. Has any technical/brutal death metal hybrid ever sounded this much like Suffocation‘s underrated future-proofed opus ‘Souls to Deny’? Well, around 2008-2010 Severed Savior, Decrepit Birth, and Deeds of Flesh each took stabs at something a step beyond but most of these records are exclusive to the aforementioned sphere. Melodious in arcing statement and hulled from ruthlessly machined attack, a closer look at ‘Synesthesia’ feels like a step back in time towards ideas that still appear futuristic and viably heavy.

Managing the compressed and blown nature of late 2000’s technical death metal into a crisped and ripping attack with presence beyond flat obliteration is the most immediate success of ‘Synesthesia’, where each performance breathes a dragon’s breath but doesn’t singe the others with friendly fire. It takes me back to ‘Cryptic Implosion’ first, a less dynamically achieved production that’d taken time to ease beyond its loudness into deeper nuance but Odious Mortem offer clearer structure thanks to a better balanced render of these recordings. The gold standard for this style has long been ‘Cabinet’ from Spawn of Possession for my own tastes, offering even a brief glimpse of that league typically cracks my brain open for more and I’d welcomed ‘Synesthesia’ happily in that regard. Without a doubt Odious Mortem still have the ‘right stuff’ in terms of sound, technique, and style on this third record; They’ve retained the core balance that defines all of the band’s work without shaking off too much of the grime and dust they’d risen from at the start of the millennium.

It is a fine return and I can give reasonably high recommendation for this overall excellent production but, Odious Mortem have only just refined and retooled a known set of parameters. As such I wouldn’t suggest ‘Synesthesia’ as a purely transcendental work or a great step beyond any limits. The second half of the LP comes close with “Eagle’s Tower” and “Spirit Hole” / “Synchronicity” peeking through a ‘progressive’ veil and that is where I’d direct folks who’d yearn for something new in their oeuvre. Otherwise this’ll be a great oasis for tech-brutal death metal fans who’re looking for a modern death metal experience free of deathcore trends.


Artist Odious Mortem
Type Full-length
Released January 17, 2020
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Genre Technical Brutal Death Metal

High recommendation. 4.25/5.0

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