by Torrey Proto (@torreysbrewin)
On their third full length, Post Plague, Toronto dark punks Odonis Odonis swap out the loud guitars featured on their past releases for throbbing synthesizers, and still find a way to maintain their abrasive sound. The decision to forego guitars pays off dividends, opening up a new world of textures and sounds previously unexplored. Despite the slicker production and glossy synths that dominate the mix, Post Plague sounds as raw and uncompromising as their past efforts.
The pulsing electronics on opener “Fearless” immediately showcase the band’s synth-heavy attack with processed kick drums, doubling down on the building momentum before dropping out and giving way to vocalist Dean Tzenos. He warns of a mindless future of technologically induced monotony with repeated chants of the phrase “barely conscious,” before a brief sound bite of a machine shutting down introduces the burgeoning chaos of “Needs” at the height of the steadily mounting controlled chaos. It’s just one of many examples of how the trio has mastered the art of restraint at their tensest moments, where a less experienced band might have predictably gone for the big payoff. On “Needs,” Tzenos acts less as a frontman than a shrieking madman, while delivering what is perhaps his most throat-shredding vocal performance amidst the pounding rhythms and electronic noise behind him.
Post Plague isn’t all macabre, as the b-side opens with two of the album’s strongest and most melodic tracks with “Pencils” and “Game.” Both songs are carried admirably by bassist Denholm Whale who provides the backbone along with the melody with Jared Gibson’s minimalistic synth-work carving out space for him to shine. On “Pencils,” Tzenos shows off his softer side, longing for a love he knows is doomed, foiled by Kathryn Calder from fellow Canadian troupe The New Pornographers. Her vocals warmly complement Tzenos, aptly filling in space on the song’s more skeletal frame. Meanwhile, the throbbing percussive drum machines that introduce “Betrayal” would have made Underworld proud. The alternation between more subdued verses featuring a crooning Tzenos tapping into his upper register shows yet another unconventional way to deliver a gut-wrenching impact.
Although Odonis Odonis have adopted new methods and tools on Post Plague, they sound as dynamic as ever, and their mission to challenge any preconceived notions one may have of what a “rock band” is capable of remains the same. They simply use a new vehicle to drive their urgent and incredibly detailed arrangements home. They deliver a compelling and haunting collection of songs that could not possibly sound more relevant than they do today in a disturbingly plugged in world. We would be wise to head their warnings, as Odonis Odonis’s confrontational blasts of hypnotic noise and melody simply cannot go ignored any longer.