In the August 2007 issue of Decibel, Psyopus mastermind Chris “Arpmandude” Arp wrote a column bemoaning the repetitive use of 4/4 time in metal. “The overuse of the number four is primitive, uncreative, boring and hopelessly lame,” he wrote. “The focused movement against this could be a vital step towards sustaining the ingenuity of the art.” While his specific point was about time signatures, the underlying theme – renouncement of tradition as a prerequisite for progress – applies to pretty much every aspect of Psyopus’s sound. Arp is a qualified lecturer on the topic of innovation. Whether he continues to walk the walk is another question.

Psyopus’s first album, Ideas of Reference, was a stunner. Here was a band of virtuosos that used their nonpareil chops to confuse, not to impress. On Odd Senses, many of the Psyopus traditions remain. The squiggly, horde-of-insects guitar style, reliant on frantic triplet tapping and lightning arpeggios. The iteration of “Imogen’s Puzzle,” here presented as a backwards track meant to be played in tandem with the version on Ideas of Reference. The clean-toned instrumental song. The long time-wasting track at the end of the album.

These surface connections to Psyopus’s past work are signposts, helping us get a handle on a sound that, three albums in, is still pretty indigestible. If anything, Odd Senses is even more difficult than its predecessors, with more complete immersion in dissonance, wider interval swings, even less structure. This is easily the best rhythm section that Arp has worked with, and it had to be – listen to the dozens of hairpin turns that every instrument makes independently on “X and Y.” It’s no wonder that Arp is the only remaining Psyopus member from the last album, Our Puzzling Encounters Considered. It’s tough to make a new record when your limbs have fallen off.

Is that enough? Maybe the slight ratcheting up of music theoretical complexity will be meaningful to a select few music school metalheads, but for the rest of us, the maturation on Odd Senses imperceptible – Psyopus still sound very much like the spastic tech-grind band of five years ago, but the shock of their insanity has worn off. Plus, the two most novel tracks on the album are fucking irritating. “Boogeyman” goes way overboard with its multiple personality disorder conceit, alternating grinding bits and Brian Woodruff’s more devastating screams with spoken nursery rhymes, split up so that each word ping-pongs between a different reader. And then “Choker Chain” hits us over the head even harder with intermittent samples of a woman saying “I miss you! I miss you!” and “Hug me! Hug me!” over and over again. Yes. Obsessive relationship. Got it. Next.

I go back and forth on whether I appreciate how Psyopus willingly deflate their high-falutin’ musical/lyrical concepts with puerile joke tracks (the one on Odd Senses is really, really dumb) and gimmicks. It’s sort of beautiful that Psyopus have embraced their creative impulses in total, from the most serious-minded avant-grind composition to the basest fart joke. But at the same time, my knowledge of Arp’s range puts into sharper relief what a small portion of his ability he exploits on Odd Senses. As with “Death, I…” and “Siobhan’s Song” from the first two albums, “A Murder to Child” (the end result of a college independent study) points to some fascinating, subtle directions for Psyopus’s future. On Odd Senses, Arp seems content to break the same mold repeatedly.

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(2 ½ out of 5 horns)


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