ODYSSEY (un)DEAD: THE BREATHING PROCESS’ “FANTASTIC” VOYAGE
Ask almost anyone in the last ten years, and they’ll make a case of how the album is dead. Starting with Napster and moving up to our current state — where music purchased legally or illegally is generally cherrypicked instead of being taken as a part of a greater whole — the album been significantly devalued to the point where, to most, it’s just a hodgepodge of files with some cover art. But this doesn’t mean the form itself — a collection of songs strewn together by, at the very least, a collective mood if not an overall theme — is necessarily a thing of the past. When given an record to review, I still view it as an album: does it have a good flow, do the songs belong together, do I get bored by the end of it or does it just stop to leave the listener underwhelmed? If you’re going to put out a CD, it should still be able to provide an overall experience without having to break down how good each individual song was one-by-one. If that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for, you most likely shouldn’t be reading album reviews, but instruction manuals, Cliffs Notes, or… well, user reviews on Encyclopedia Metallum.
All that being said, I don’t think a proper perspective of how The Breathing Process’ latest album, Odyssey (un)Dead, goes from promising blackened death metal excursion to sub-Bleeding Through gothic metalcore shitshow can be properly expressed in any way other than semi-chronologically. Like a good album, yes, it provides a journey; unlike a good album, it’s not, as a whole, remotely any good.
Odyssey (un)Dead starts off with intro track “Hours,” which sets the bar pretty fucking high. Though it’s essentially blackened deathcore, those who find Winds of Plague a guilty pleasure in small doses will enjoy it. Then comes “Grimoire,” which starts with the same keyboards that overwhelm “Hours,” but then kicks in with 1349-speed black metal. The song continues to volley back and forth between surgically precise speed and meaty, meaty grooves. On the one hand, it’s cheesy as fuck. But on the other, it’s GOOD cheesy: hyperbolic, but epic. “Leveler” comes next, reminiscent of a more ridiculous Behemoth. The Breathing Process put up all sorts of red flags — keyboards, production that leaves everything with a blinding sheen, a girl in the band (but she plays guitar, which is is no small feat, seemingly), their shitty, shitty mallcore name — but, at first, seem to sidestep the drek usually associated with them. There’s well-executed blackened death metal, interesting prog bits, and great mood builders, like the track “Vultures.” But at the end of “Vultures,” there’s a weird clean singing part that sticks out like a 21-year-old at a deathcore show. It’s not too offensive, but then it rears its head again on “Pantheon Unraveling,” the following track. Guitarist/vocalist Sara Loerlein isn’t a BAD vocalist, per se, but just completely derivative of every clean-singing girl in a metal band in the last decade or so: melodramatic, alto, boring. A horribly titled instrumental called “Starless Eternal” comes next, full of synthesized orchestra flourishes and big, pointless riffs. And then the bottom drop out.
The title track, which comes next, is a song you’ve heard before. Hell, you’ve heard it earlier today, quite possibly, because it’s EVERY OTHER METALCORE SONG EVER WRITTEN. Overbearing faux-classical keyboards, watered down melodic death metal riffs, dumb hardcore rhythms, a goddamn breakdown, and, most of all, a big, clean-sung chorus that’s not catchy enough to redeem itself. Suddenly, “Grimoire” and “Leveler” seem a world away, and while the music is competent enough, it’s also boring as fuck. “Metamorphosis” follows suit, the goodwill that Odyssey (un)Dead initially garnered is suddenly and completely forgotten, and it becomes a race to the end of the album. To be fair, there are moments of almost-greatness on the way there: “The Opaque Forest” throws enough beefy riffs the listener’s way before the “prettiness” starts again, and closer “Decaying Form” is pretty decent as well. But like a plane flying out of Denver that clips a mountain on its ascent, it’s probably not going to make it to New York.
This is not to say I have a problem with people singing in bands, nor girls being in bands (hell, I think metal’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t have ENOUGH women in bands that aren’t relegated to the eye-candy/girlfriend role). But The Breathing Process’ problem is that despite showing potential, they still feel the need to sound like everything the fuck else, and have the same issue that gothic metalcore/”blackened” deathcore bands have all had: if you really need to be clean and pretty at times, at least make sure you do it well. TBP do not. As a whole, Odyssey (un)Dead is an EPIC failure. But thankfully, the upside to the iTunes/Soulseek era is that you can enjoy the album’s first four tracks and pretend like everything after never existed. Maybe the band will go on to make an excellent full length that plays to their strengths; right now, though, they have a pretty sick EP if you’re allowed to write your own revisionist history. And if generic metalcore plodding and dumbed down Lacuna Coil bellowing aren’t your thing, you’ll want it written.
(2 out of 5 horns)