In the modern age, the music industry is truly an unfathomable anomaly in every sense of the word. Artists, bands, and smaller projects surface as quickly as they disappear, completely submerged in the vortex of ether, dissolving into clouds populated with copious amount of others. Sadly, many of these so-called pop artists are the ones that get signed to large labels, only to make millions and generate fame whoring and undeserving praise. Indeed, this is made all the sadder since there are true artists, musicians, and visionaries out there that never get the praise or recognition they rightfully deserve. Since at an early childhood, be it in the car or at home, we are cultured in a certain way in regards to music and how it’s supposed to be aesthetically appeasing and discernible. This can mean many things, but usually it comes down to song structuring and patterns that we have all heard before.
Artistic integrity is rare in the modern age, be it in the pop radio charts or the underground, but this is not the case here. Enter Odradek Room from Ukraine — a band heavily influenced by classical literature and philosophy. Formed in 2008 under a different name, this young band presents their début album Bardo. Relative Reality. Derived from Franz Kafka‘s existentialist creature from The Cares of a Family Man, Odradek Room is a band that I find hard to otherwise categorize musically. Fundamentally at the heart of it all, Odradek Room plays a form of death/doom metal. The underlining nature of their music is where it gets thrown into a cosmic rift and torn asunder. Many bands rely heavily on the usage of synths and keyboards to utilize a degree of atmosphere not seen in many more guitar-only driven acts. Odradek Room seems to meld fluently this brand of doom metal with a heavy dose of post-rock / shoegaze with very progressive and jazzy warmth, making heavily effected guitars the main attraction here. Atmosphere of true quality can be no easy feat to create, especially with a lack of more pro-electronic mindsets, but they managed to build a warm and sublime atmosphere that resonates in the conscience. This is a truly artistic representation of the genre I never had the pleasure to indulge in before.
Bardo. Relative Reality is just completely immersive in every respect. There are layers abroad and so many rather beautiful, sensual tones going on, sometimes though shifting to some seriously heavy moments. Be forewarned, this is not an easy listen. Despite its warm, somber, and sublime atmosphere, it takes a few listens to fully appreciate and break down the release. As I mentioned before, it’s not easy to put a label on this release due its rather eclectic influence. Once you do dive far into the music and break down its components, there is a lot going on here. Only when you do grasp the myriad of influences and content found on this CD will you find probably one of the most rewarding doom releases so far this year. It’s a refreshing feeling to have such art playing, putting all of your attention into it and completely losing yourself in the moment. A genre so entrenched in being as heavy and frightening as possible, Bardo. Relative Reality is heavy in a different way and accomplishes what others can’t.
All of the lyrics here are in both in Ukrainian and English( only found in the lyrics sections of the CD booklet). Apparently, this is a conceptual album based upon themes and ideas about reality, the conscious mind and surrealist imagery found in the Tibetan book of the dead. Despite not being knowledgeable in the language spoken, the themes and lyrics sheets accompanying this surrealist doom metal does paint broad mental imagery of the sonic majesty building upon the ears. Furthermore, the duality of the usage of both languages is in some way supposed to create this rather psychedelic dimensional pondering of the human mind.
The vocals themselves are where some extra intrigue grows. Most doom/death acts roar a triumphant salvo of guttural death growls. This is true for here as well, but they sound very strange. I’m not able to fully articulate it in words, but the vocals are layered and textured just as much as the wall of guitars and interchange between high-range grunts to mellow cleans. By far though, my favorites would be the clean vocal sections. They are well sung and mixed in with the rest of the song, never taking too much precedence over the rest of the music. That said, the vocals are used rather sparingly on this release, and for many reasons I think that this is intentional; it allows the emotional melodies and crisp production values to shine. Bardo… doesn’t turn mountains in the vocal department, but it sure as hell will impress the listener with intelligent instrumentation and atmosphere.
Bardo. Relative Reality may scare away some of the potential listeners whom are not so keen with genre fusion and experimentations. It may even turn off those that may not be a fan of, dare I say, avant-garde. This is a unique and original take on doom metal that doesn’t disappoint. In a musical world void of artistic integrity, it’s refreshing to see experimentation of this caliber. It’s mature and eclectic, and the reality is that this is a form of doom metal that is for the thinking man. One just can not put this into their CD player or MP3 player and casually or passively listen to it. This release demands the listener be an active one, consuming and digesting what’s being woven into the fibers of their proverbial mental canvas. While writing this review, I was playing the album in the background; I found myself in a trance, forgetting to write anything at all.
01) Theatre of Forms
02) Inflorescence of Silence
03) A Painting (Digging into the Canvas with Oil)
05) Faded Reality
07) Cold Light