Saturday, May 16, 2009

Review: Octanic - Industry (2008)

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Metal fans seeking bands with an uncommon sound should focus attention on Australia's Octanic. Their simply-titled debut EP Industry is an energetic amalgamation of metallic elements, wherein everything from Power Metal keyboard flourishes to melo-Death vocals has a place. While such a beast may, on the surface, seem to be unapproachable, keyboardist and primary songwriter Andrew Baillie has done an expert job of applying each element in just the right dosage to create a very listenable and interesting album.

As is often the case in the Heavy Metal world, Industry gets started with a superfluous intro track. "Unmaker" heralds the meat of the album with stomping riffs from Stephen Wardle and Daniel Cederblad, while Baillie lends the track a European Power Metal feel with dancing harpsichord passages. Octanic's sound is an exercise in contrasts, with the aggressive riffs and classical keys of "Unmaker" just the first example of many. Frontman Jay Shepherdson is himself a key element of contrast, altering his vocal style significantly throughout the course of the EP. During the verses he sticks primarily to an angered, snarling style while cleanly crooning the choruses - lending a bit of a melo-Death slant to Octanic's sound. Shepherdson's unrefined vocals fit the music quite well, though the power ballad "Carry Me Home" may be a bit of a stretch for him. Musically, the piano-driven track has a pleasing melody to it and does feature a nice meandering solo, but Shepherdson's vocals are a bit shaky as he clearly is far beyond his comfort zone. "Carry Me Home" is the only weak song on Industry and as such is certainly not enough to weigh down the remaining tracks.

Highlight songs for me are "Master" and "Nightmare's Charm", as both are up-tempo scorchers with driving riffs and aggressive vocals. "Master" also features some very tasteful keyboard accents, while "Nightmare's Charm" has a highly infectious chorus that sticks with you long after the album is over. Although Baillie is the primary songwriter, the keyboard elements aren't at all overpowering despite the fact that they are so integral to Octanic's core sound. His keys are, for the most part, used mainly to generate atmosphere or - as in the case of "Master" - to accentuate Wardle and Cederblad's riffing. "The Magician" is a track where Baillie pushes more to the surface, backing the belligerent riffs with majestic passages and punctuating Dan Fleuren's bass solo with some nifty sci-fi effects.

As varied as the individual parts are, the sum that is Octanic's Industry is an intriguing offering of Industrial Metal that will appeal to a wide-ranging audience. The band also experiments with marketing techniques by packing this release as a 2-CD set, the second disc featuring the entire EP in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. Spiffy. This Australian outfit more than deserves your attention.

Track Listing
1The Calling1:36
4Carry Me Home4:58
5The Magician4:26
6Nightmare's Charm3:22
7I... Pariah4:17
Total Runtime28:03

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