Artist: Odd Dimension
Album Title: The Blue Dawn
Label: Scarlet Records
Date of Release: 26 March 2021
It’s hard to know where to begin with this album review, given that there’s so much to tell you about. ‘The Blue Dawn’ marks the return of Italian progressive rock/metal band after an absence of eight years. They return with a new line-up, a new record with over an hour’s worth of music on it, and it’s a concept album as well. And, in true prog fashion, it’s a concept featuring various characters, guest vocalists, spoken-word parts, and a convoluted story that I’m still struggling to get my head around.
Maybe let’s start with the concept then, to get that out of the way. In the band’s own words, ‘The Blue Dawn’ apparently tells the story of “…two space travellers – Markus and Eloise – involved in a deviation from their original path caused by the attacks of an unknown population that makes them land on a new planet then called ‘The Blue Planet’ where they’ll have to struggle to live, to the point of creating an army with the very matter of that planet to help them restore order and save their children, who will eventually mix with the hosts created by them, generating a new race.”
In order to bring the concept to life, Odd Dimension call on no less than five guests to sing and narrate on ‘The Blue Dawn’, including Labyrinth’s Roberto Tiranti and two female vocalists, Aileen and Eliana Parodi. They join guitarist Gianmaria Saddi, bassist Gigi Andreone, and keyboardist Gabriele Ciaccia, as well as new recruits, drummer Marco Lazzarini and vocalist Jan Manenti.
I think that’s all of the housekeeping out of the way. And so, on to the music. On that score, I find myself a little conflicted. On the one hand, the music is deep, warm, vibrant, and without doubt intelligent. To say that there is a lot going on within the ten compositions is something of an understatement; it takes plenty of time to digest fully. But, having duly spent that time in order to bring this review to fruition, I am still not entirely convinced by ‘The Blue Dawn’. There is no denying that Odd Dimension are a talented bunch, with hunger, desire, and ambition. But ultimately, there is something about the music that prevents me from fully taking to it and lauding it as the next great progressive release.
On reflection, I think it is more accurately a cumulation of several small things instead of one giant stumbling block because the overriding sense I get is that it’s a very decent album and to be too negative is to do the band a great disservice; it may just be my personal take and opinion that leads me to these conclusions.
One of the main issues I have is in terms of the melodies. The quintet have the ability and there are flashes of brilliance which I will reference in a moment. But frustratingly, the genius is sporadically applied, with the bulk of the material being generally ok, but not ground-breaking.
The instrumental intro entitled ‘Mission No.773’ though, is gorgeous and shows the promise of great things to come. It is opulent, cinematic and highly atmospheric, with a huge sci-fi sheen. It is stirring and dramatic in the best way possible and I can’t wait for the album to continue.
‘Landing On Axtradel’ is the first ‘proper’ composition, a song that blurs the edges between progressive rock and metal. The robotic, electronic narration is hard to decipher and won’t be to everyone’s taste but the music is energetic and professionally executed. When vocalist Manenti enters for the first time, the band demonstrate some hefty Everon vibes with bold piano notes. Without any doubt, Jan Manenti is a great addition to the fold as his voice is very powerful, expressive, and with a nice rock grit to it. The song begins to grow on me after several spins but it never catches light, despite some choral vocals and a dramatic closing sequence.
And, for the larger part of this record, these comments remain accurate. The music is well put together, with lots of clever flourishes and progressive intent. But for all of the bluff and bluster, the lack of killer melodies holds back my enjoyment.
I also happen to think that the 70s influences loom too large over much of the music. That’s definitely the case with ‘The Invasion’ with its huge organ embellishments. It’s also true of large parts of the ten-minute title track, where it becomes way too bluesy and hard rock-esque for my tastes. And that’s a shame because there are some lovely sections to the composition that are undermined by this approach. As I said before, it’s a subjective thing and others may lap this up, but I don’t unfortunately. I can understand the reasoning though, because Manenti does have a voice suited to that style of music, and it is utilised to the fullest on ‘The Blue Dawn’.
I hate being so negative, but it’s only because when Odd Dimension get it right, they have the ability to make magic. The opening to ‘Escape To Blue Planet’ is beautiful, as is the mid-album instrumental interlude, ‘Solar Wind’. It’s an exquisite piece of music, with deep resonant strings alongside delicate piano notes initially, with further eloquent and emotional strings appearing as the composition moves forward. And the melodies are truly captivating.
Speaking of strong melodies, I have to mention ‘Life Creators’ which is, for me, head and shoulders the best song on the record. The guitars are muscular and arresting in a way that they have never been up to now, delivering stunning melodies. The piano continues apace, adding depth, whilst the vocal performances are urgent and completely in keeping with the musical soundscape surrounding them. It’s such a great song that I am left scratching my head, wondering why the rest of the album couldn’t have been more like this.
Elsewhere, I like the opening and closing sections of the title track, and the second half of ‘Sands Of Yakuzia’ from around the 4:30 mark is mind blowing. The combination of epic intent, strong melodies, excellent bass playing, the electronic narration vocals, it all comes together to create something incredibly special. I’m also a fan of the melodies and wailing guitars within the latter stages of the closing song, ‘The Supreme Being’. Again, I ask, why couldn’t more of the entire album be like this?
And that’s the conclusion from me – ‘The Blue Dawn’ is a nice record, with lots to recommend and lots to enjoy. I have absolutely no doubt that there will be many people who vehemently disagree with my review because the album is nectar to their ears. But I have to be honest and Odd Dimension really frustrate me here because when they’re hot, they’re on fire. An entire album in a similar vein to ‘Life Creators’ and the instrumental pieces, and it might have been pushing towards the stratosphere. As it is, ‘The Blue Dawn’ is a good record. It’s magical in places, but not enough to elevate it higher in my estimations. Nevertheless, I shall still look forward to hearing the next album to see what they produce.
The Score of Much Metal: 78%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: