With August coming to a close, it's time for our last post of the month, and it's our 38th monthly local CD review! With our coverage expansion last month, this band's frontman playing in the area recently with his current group, and with no new recent local metal/hard rock album releases, it made sense to give an overdue look at "Go", the only album from defunct Cedarville, Michigan hard rock quartet Oddfellow! Independently released in 2005 during the middle of their run, "Go" features Oddfellow's classic lineup, including current Chump Change bassist Jason Haske on lead vocals & guitar, his brother/S.C.O.W. bandmate Seth Haske on guitar and vocals, Phil Kasper on bass, and Riot! By Night alum Odin Osogwin on drums. As far as I can tell, "Go" is long since out of print and may be hard to track down physical copies of, but the full album is streamable on YouTube at this location, so it's at least available! Six songs are also on Oddfellow's MySpace page, and there may also be copies floating around on torrent sites, but YouTube is the easiest & most complete, and the song titles below link to the songs there. Impressively long for a debut album, will the 14 songs and hour long length of Oddfellow's only CD sustain it and entertain listeners? Let's find out starting with track number 1!
The album starts with "Tricks", which starts with a solid drum solo intro from Odin Osogwin before the rest of the band slowly joins with some creative and catchy instrumentation. Jason Haske's vocals to start off on this album are solid, and remind me of Cory Murchison from Skeyes of Seven a bit, though maybe not as varied. The choruses don't sound as excitable or different as they probably should, instead just being sort of a fast talking style. The music though is really good, with great guitar work from the Haske brothers and nice low bass work, but the guitar solo is far too short. I will note that this song has a very similar feel to "Save Yourself" by Stabbing Westward (I'm not sure if that's intentional), but it has enough different elements and touches to make it stand on it's own! My only major gripes with "Tricks" are the short guitar solo and minimally varied vocal work, but this is a very good opener to "Go", and if Oddfellow keeps this up, this album should be a success!
Second is "S.O.S.", which has a softer opening with singing that calls to mind 1990s alternative rock bands in some ways. Even the heavier stretches of this song are more reserved & introspective in tone, and there's a familiarity about it. Jason's singing is more melodic than we saw on "Tricks", and he proves he can sing in a softer clean tone fairly well, while the rest of the band play this song about as well as you'd expect given the song's tone. It's not too repetitive, and Oddfellow are definitely playing this song well, but speaking as a metalhead, I enjoy "Tricks" more for it's energy and heaviness. If you like some darker & softer alternative music though, this song will appeal to you! That's followed by "Lost Cause", and continuing with the exploration of different sounds and styles, this is actually more or less a punk song! Unexpected, but this sounds like something that a 1990s punk band might have played, and as a punk fan, I appreciate where this song's going! Honestly, Jason's vocals suit this kind of song better than on the previous two tracks, even singing more melodically, which I welcome! Seth's lead guitar work here is really good, even on the somewhat longer solo section, and this song has a fun and catchy melody, well timed drumming from Odin, and a nice energy that is welcomed! Though not especially heavy, Oddfellow showed off their diverse influences on "Lost Cause", and it works for them!
Fourth on Oddfellow's only CD is "To Go", and once again, they have another sound to show off, that being a softer acoustic ballad of sorts. Though unplugged, the vocals are energetic and emotional, and the guitar work is varied enough to include a solo, so it's not just some sad and downbeat original. If anything, Odin's drumming is a bit too loud, but as it sits, the guys show their ability to play numerous genres well here once again, and Jason's vocal control is very good too! That all said, I think this song would probably play better with electric instruments, as it sounds somewhat like a hard rock song adapted to an acoustic format, but it works pretty well, and is an early album highlight! Then we have "Inspire", a return to the heavier sound of the first song on "Go", and early, the guitar riffing and instrumentation even has somewhat of a progressive touch! The vocals are more varied and creative here, including some rap metal-eqsue moments, but the dual vocal parts sound too nasally for my liking. "Inspire" has more of an original sound though than some earlier songs had, and it has a catchy heaviness going for it that works to it's advantage, so if you missed a harder rocking song after "Tricks", you'll welcome it's return here!
Track number 6 is "Operator", which builds into another heavier guitar-heavy opening, and keeps it up well with a nice and dependably hard rocking original song that's honestly my favourite on the album so far! It's got a heavy and melodic sound without sounding derivative of other songs or too out there, and the band seems to be firing on all cylinders, sans the lack of a full guitar solo. While I like their variance of sounds, a heavy original is always welcomed, and the guys all play well, including nice bass work from Phil Kasper and some well used vocal work by Jason Haske. It might not be the most creative and diverse song on "Go", but as a metalhead, it's my favourite song on the CD's first half! It's followed by "Static", a longer original that seems to mix the sounds of "To Go" and "S.O.S." into a softer and part-acoustic number that switches back and forth a bit and integrating those styles at other points, even having some jazzy interludes between verses. "Static" isn't as aggressive of an acoustic song as "To Go" was, but it has a more downbeat feel that works to it's advantage. Definitely the lightest song so far on this CD, "Static" has sort of a laid back campfire feel at times, and while I prefer their heavier material, this song accomplishes what it's supposed to, and it isn't badly played!
Eighth is "The Game", another softer track that starts in a reserved and melodic way, but I don't get the extremely quiet part a minute in with Jason singing over minimal instrumentation. It came out of nowhere and killed the momentum to me. This beats "Static" for lightness, reminding me a bit of an Incubus-ish band at points, but it has nice flourishes, including the dual vocals late in the track, a nice upbeat vibe, and solid guitar melodies, but pure metalheads who don't like ballads might wanna stay clear. There's not a lot of grit and attitude here, and though you can tell it's a rock song, "The Game" doesn't show Oddfellow at their heaviest, but again, that's the point. The next song, entitled "She Is", returns Oddfellow to a bit of a harder rocking style, with melodic (though more nasally) singing overtop of quiet verses and heavier choruses. Though not a punk song like "Lost Cause", it has that sort of feel about it, and the drum work here is very effective! However, it is fairly short and the bass could stand to be louder, plus the break before the final chorus is abrupt and kills the mood a bit. All around though, "She Is" gives us a fun and upbeat rock number that helps keep things moving, and if the softer ballad stretch wasn't your thing, "She Is" might be!
The tenth song on "Go" is "Change", which builds into a deliberately paced yet heavy opening, and I'm really digging the instrumentation on this song's opening minute, which shows the band at perhaps their heaviest! Jason's singing is about as aggressive and rangy as I've heard so far on the opening verses, but the choruses are too high pitched and upbeat compared to the rest of the song, and break from the mood of the earlier tracks. Ironically, the choruses involve singing "I don't care what you think" twice, so I might wanna move on from that point! The choruses and the lack of a guitar solo are my only gripes with this song, which otherwise shows Oddfellow at their heavy best with awesome guitar riffs and solid low bass work, so while it's a hit & miss song, it's high points earn their quality! Next on the CD is the album's longest track, "For You", and while it also starts heavy, it has those "sing over minimal instruments" verses that are slightly overdone. Like some other earlier songs, this has an upbeat rock feel without fully going into ballad territory, but the singing is melodic and suits the genre, and it has a nice guitar solo section that other heavier songs sorely needed. It's a well done song that has no grievous errors, but I'm finding that these softer originals are a bit overdone, especially late on "Go", and I'd welcome more variety like the first few songs had.
The twelfth song is "Call You", and while it begins with vocals again over minimal instruments, the guitar effects are neat and the singing suits the mood well enough! Unfortunately, the abundance of 4 minute+ softer rock numbers continues with this song, but at least this one has deeper vocals and more of a soaring chorus than some of it's predecessors. Plus, it has another guitar solo, but I have to ask, why don't the heavier songs have them? If nothing else, this song is more creative and original than songs of it's ilk on "Go", but when I hear the first half of this album, I'm really impressed by the diversity and influences heard, so why are we stuck in a light upbeat theme ("Change" aside) on the second half? Luckily, that trend is broken with the CD's penultimate song "Down", which is by far the heaviest song on this album, and regrettably, also the shortest, at just 2:38 long. The verses are nice and aggressive, and the more melodic choruses work to the benefit of the song without wrecking anything, while Jason's singing suits the mood without sounding forced. Phil's bass work also really shines, but the lack of a guitar solo is disappointing, but I will admit that the song might be repetitive if stretched out to add other things. "Down" is not perfect, but it's got lots of spark and heaviness, and it's a welcome boost of intensity!
"Go" closes with "Dandelion", but that title doesn't imply a softer song, as the album does close with another heavier track that has good pacing, solid guitar action, and melodic vocals that flow well with the song as it goes. The chorus could stand to be more original, but this is a nice heavy way to end Oddfellow's CD on a positive note, and it shows them at their aggressive best without getting too repetitive! So, how would I assess this Cedarville quartet's only album? Well, I will say that the Haske brothers, Phil, and Odin definitely had good chemistry and crafted some entertaining and catchy numbers on "Go", and knowing their mid-2000s successes, there was probably no better time to record this album! While I preferred Jason's deeper singing to Seth's often high pitched vocals, they both effectively contributed on both vocals and guitar on "Go", and they have an ear for heavy and proficient riffs, and when we heard them, solos! Phil Kasper's bass work wasn't always prominent, but he had lots of good lines and moments, and Odin Osogwin's drumming tended to be very good and well timed with the music at hand, so their talents aren't a worry! On songs like "Tricks", "Operator", and "Down", you'll find some solid hard rock jams, while they explore some interesting sounds and genres early that show their diversity very well!
However, as much as I enjoy "Go", this is far from a perfect album. My main issue is the lack of diversity in the latter half of the CD, with way too many softer rock songs glutting the latter half of the album. When you see all the different sounds and genres that they explored on the first 5 or 6 songs, it makes me wonder why they weighted it this way, but I imagine if songs like "Call You" and "The Game" were more spread out, it'd play better. As well, there was too many quiet stretches with only vocals and minimal instrumentation, and not enough guitar solos (especially on the heavier songs), but when Oddfellow were on, they were on! They threw a lot of diverse influences into their music when need be, and could be very heavy when the right song arose, and the solid production and the members' talents helped that all immensely! Oddfellow reached some big heights in their mid-2000s peak, and this album definitely helped the cause (especially early and at the end), and it'd be great to see the guys reunite down the road, even for just a show or two! Overall, Oddfellow's only album was a hit and miss effort to me, but when they were on their game, their diverse and proficient take on hard rock was more than listenable, and I do recommend checking out "Go" at the above links!
I hope you guys liked this month's CD review at The Sault Metal Scene! So, what's coming up for our next album review in September? I'm not 100% sure, but like last month, I have ideas in mind. With our recent concentration of Sault Michigan-area album reviews (4 of the last 5 were American), I wanted to focus on Sault Ontario again, and with the wait since we last looked at a Sault Ontario band for a CD review, we have no buffers to get by to look at a local band again for a later or older CD. That said, precedence will go to a new album release, but if nothing new and heavy comes out by the end of September (possibilities of which you can see here), I'll likely be taking a look at Woods of Ypres' 2008 album "Woods III: The Deepest Roots & The Darkest Blues"! Regardless of the month, that will be our next Woods of Ypres CD review, and it'll be our last before we start reviewing their singles & compilations, likely starting with "Independent Nature" next year. For the record, the David Gold tribute album isn't an official Woods of Ypres CD, so that'll likely be reviewed upon release without a large delay. So whether we're looking at "Woods III" or something new, watch for our next CD review by the end of the month, and I'll see you guys at The Canadian TONIGHT for Skull Fist! Thanks everyone!