Released: 2009, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Get ready to let your freak flag fly because Psyopus is back with their latest exercise in mind-fuckery entitled ODD SENSES. The band has almost single-handedly made the genre of inconceivably fast, technical grind with nods to prog and jazz their own. Imagine the lovechild of Pig Destroyer, Mr. Bungle, Dillinger Escape Plan and Steve Vai and it would near the scatterbrained chaos of Psyopus. With guitarist Chris Arp remaining the one constant over three albums, ODD SENSES sees a new rhythm section emerge since the release of 2007’s OUR PUZZLING ENCOUNTERS CONSIDERED but the same manic chaos Psyopus fans have come to expect still remains.
“Medusa” wastes no time in eliciting eye-popping guitar runs. With new bassist, Mike Horn, backing him up, Arp’s playing is unbelievably fast and the technicality is impressive to say the least. Lurching tempos and dizzying waves of fretboard stroking set the pace for yet another dose of Psyopus’ mind-altering music. The best example: “Duct Tape Smile.” Arp’s playing is so lightning-fast that his tapping technique sounds like an out of control siren but Horn’s basswork borders on jazzy, so the two combined really yield a strange result. For all of that song’s frenetic absurdity, “X and Y” opens with what can best be described as free-form progressive jazz/funk with Arp, Horn and drummer Jason Bauers engaged in a blazing jam session. At its most harsh, Brian Woodruff’s ear-shredding screeches on “Ms. Shyflower” takes the album towards pure noise but the real gem of ODD SENSES comes on “A Murder To Child,” a stylistic departure for the band that blends neo-classical majesty with a Bernard Hermann-like film score. At times, the symphonic swells sound like a music box as the violin, cello and guitar battle towards a peaking crescendo. This is where the dichotomy of Psyopus really shows.
While Psyopus manages to dazzle at many points, the sheer absurdity in other places derails things. The band has always defied song structures or any traditional idea of what defines music but Arp really takes things to the brink here. “Imogen’s Puzzle Pt. 3” (Parts 1 and 2 being on the band’s two previous releases) is in reverse. “Boogeyman” features different people saying one word bursts of the lyrics and while it is something unique, it is also rather annoying. Likewise, “Choker Chain,” featuring loops of a woman robotically repeating “I miss you” and “Do you love me” like a pull-string doll, gets old really, really quickly. As they did on OUR PUZZLING ENCOUNTERS CONSIDERED, an untitled “hidden” track takes up over twenty minutes and is a mixture of studio jams and nonsensical skits running the gamut from a bogus film trailer to an infomercial to a rendition of “Feel My Heat” from BOOGIE NIGHTS. As space filler, I suppose this works and is probably fun for the band but for the rest of us, it is difficult to even sit through this once, let alone revisiting it.
ODD SENSES, like its predecessors, goes for whack-job time signatures and over-caffeinated speed to stake its claim. Psyopus is not for mass-consumption, won’t be seen on MTV or have a breakthrough single. Chris Arp writes music for a certain niche of fans that gets off on this stuff and are willing to take the confines of an instrument to its absolute limit. Psyopus is a love-it-or-hate-it type of band and there are equal numbers on each side of the fence but, yes, there are plenty out there who can relate to the hyper-shredding and off-kilter madness played by the infinitely talented band on ODD SENSES.
KILLER KUTS: “Medusa,” “Duct Tape Smile,” “X and Y,” “A Murder To Child”