Synth Album Review: Hoffman Cruise, "Odyssey"
You may not have thought the world needed a synthmetal album that references ancient Greek mythology, but if you’re like me, after hearing Hoffman Cruise’s Odyssey album, you’ll realize that it is precisely what we needed. This is a rocking cyberpunk take on that timeless myth that manages to combine dancing melodic moments of light with full-on, blistering guitar attacks and a deep well of bass along with drums that will mercilessly batter you around the face.
Odyssey is an album on which the various musical elements play very well together. First off, there’s that heavy guitar that drenches the recording. It is deep, hard and has just the right level of aggression. It provides a strong contrast to the flying, singing synths that cut into it and wheel over it. The drums on the album have that “retro” sound but they also punch into your body and make it move. Finally the bass is like a powerful superstructure that comes in to tie the entire sound into one solid piece.
The moments of soloing on Odyssey were something that I enjoyed. The band’s guitarist can really let the axe shine when it’s necessary and the synth solos were all great at emphasizing the well-written melodies as they shone and added notes of brightness in the darker parts of the album, providing a good sonic balance.
I was also pleased that Hoffman Cruise wrote synth melodies that emphasize the brightness and warmth that synths are so good at creating. They spun, wheeled and danced over the weight underneath but could still provide minor key moments.
Speaking of sonic balance, I liked the production on the album. It might have been tempting to let the guitars take over, simply because of the weight and power they possess, but Hoffman Cruise seems to have resisted that temptation. Instead they are nicely balanced so that we can really hear the synth melodies. Again the temptation might have been to let that bass throb take over, but instead the bass is held at a level that strengthens the other musical elements of the tracks.
Reviewers like to talk about music being cinematic and it can get a bit clichéd. However, in the case of Odyssey, I feel that it’s quite fitting. This is music that took me on an auditory journey. It carried me through a landscape of mixed emotions from hope and triumph to despair and terror. I appreciated how I could close my eyes and be carried away on the mental images rushing through my head.
Now it comes time for me to run down the tracks on the album that made a strong impression on me and talk about what the elements were that caused me to form that impression.
Open-sounding drums, a lot of reverb and a sense of cavernous space open up around a repeating synth pattern that is backed up by drums that hit hard and fill that open space on "Cyclops." The guitar takes the lead, repeating notes sliding into one another as the drums crash. A hectic, whirling lead synth plays oscillating patterns as the guitars make themselves felt with another powerful surge of sound. This track is very tense and intense, full of angry energy that seethes from the guitars.
"Run For Cover" starts off with a bright synth sound and fairly classic sounding synthwave drums. This track illustrates this band’s ability to write memorable, catchy melodies with a tune that is bright and warm but touched by a hint of something more melancholy. The deep sweeping bass comes in to fill out the track while that synth shines high above it. This is an extremely full and rich track. It’s a nice interlude and a chance to recover from the intensity of the previous tracks.
Foreboding bass and a driving beat open "Charybdis." The guitars kick in, throbbing and grinding out the melody, a wall of sound that dominates the track. Now that main melody sparkles through the track, feeling surprisingly positive and uplifting. The metal roots of the album are on clear display as the guitars roar underneath the track. There’s a sense of danger passed, but the warning of more danger still in store for the crew of the Argo.
The track entitled "Through The Rocks" gives the impression of wind and wlld seas. The rhythm is slow and pounding and chiming synths dance over the track before the guitars slice into the track, cutting hard through all the other sounds. There’s a highly energetic guitar solo in the track that was fun to listen to. Now the high synths sing out into the music as the guitars rock hard, heavy chords supporting first another guitar solo and then synths like crystal slide over those underpinnings. I was a big fan of the overall imagery of this track.
"I Won’t Come Back " has synths that spin over a rushing beat and some fierce guitar clash. The rushing beat drives forward before the guitar clash comes in under the warm synth. This time the melody is very upbeat and speaks of forward motion and progress. The guitars mesh well with the synths here, finding a good balance between the elements.This is a very cinematic track, seemingly telling a story of success against high odds. The guitar solo is great, showing off all the chops of the guitarist, howling and leaping from his fingers.
Odyssey is an enjoyable slice of synth-metal fusion. It takes the musical and auditory characteristics of heavy, aggressive guitars and melds them with retrowave beats and these lovely, exciting and well-thought out melodies and then adds a strong dose of storytelling tot produce a cyberpunk journey through mythology in an entertaining way.