Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra – Album Review

Artist: Terra Odium

Album Title: Ne Plus Ultra

Label: Frontiers Music

Date of Release: 11 June 2021

Due to my unexpected but much needed early June hiatus, I am playing catch up with many of the releases that threatened to pass me by unexplored and unreviewed. The focus of this review is the debut album from a progressive metal entity that goes by the name of Terra Odium and I was compelled to review this release because of the clientele involved. This is another of those Frontiers ‘supergroups’ you see, although unlike others on the Italian label’s roster, Terra Odium has not been put together by the label; as far as I can tell, this has been a more organic process that has led to a mouth-watering line-up.

Led by ex-Spiral Architect duo Øyvind Hægeland (guitars, vocals) and Asgeir Mickelson (drums), they have been joined by guitarist Bollie Fredriksen (Manitou), bassist Steve Di Giorgio (Testament), and keyboardist Jon Phipps (Angra, Moonspell, Dragonforce) who is in place primarily to provide the orchestration. As much as I hate the term ‘supergroup’, there can be little argument that this descriptor applies pretty accurately to Terra Odium. But, can the music live up to the lofty expectations that can come from such a group of musicians? You’d certainly hope so, but there’s never any guarantee.

This is so difficult for me, it really is. On the one hand, I cannot deny the quality of the music and the song writing. There is a lot going on within each of the seven tracks as you’d rightfully expect from a proper progressive metal release, especially with the clientele involved in bringing this together. It is heavy, it is technical, it is created with real attention to detail, and the production is huge and affords the clarity that you need for music like this. By way of example, the bass of Steve Di Giorgio is ever present throughout, perfectly audible so that you can hear everything he does, be it simple or complex.

Mind you, everywhere across the band, the performances are great. Mickelson’s drumming is tight as anything, with flamboyance built in when required. The guitar riffs are powerful whilst the dexterity is impressive. The orchestration from Jon Phipps fits well within the music, not overdone, but bold when necessary and subtle elsewhere. It has everything…

But, here’s the rub: do I warm to the music? Do I connect with it, and yearn to listen to it whilst I’m engaged with my fifteenth work video call meeting of the day? No. Sadly, I don’t. I admire it, but my admiration remains at arm’s length for the most part. For my tastes, the songs are lacking in the memorability stakes; whether that’s because there’s not enough melody, or because the instrumentational prowess overtakes and consumes the hooks that are already well concealed. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter because whatever the reason, I’m left feeling a little disengaged.

The thing I like least however, is the vocals. I hate to single musicians out, but I am just not a fan of Øyvind Hægeland’s offering. This is a completely subjective view, but I find the singing to be cold and a touch sterile. Hægeland can sing, of that there’s no doubt; hell, he can hit notes that I could only ever dream of. But crucially, I don’t find his delivery to be engaging and warm. Instead, it makes the complex soundscapes that surround him even less penetrable, as if they are deliberately at odds with the music to create a vague dissonance at times. At this point, I can’t help but focus on the artwork, because it’s both compelling, but stark, depicting a lone soul entering a giant maze. That’s me – lost, confused, and about to suffer at the hands of the maze.

Having said all that, I will concede that there are flashes of music on ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ that I do like. The more melodic sections within ‘Winter’ are really nice, usually coalescing when the orchestration is at its most overt and bold. The noodling in between does little for me, coming across as virtuosic for the sake of it, but there’s just enough melody at the right times to counteract these parts. Just.

Elsewhere, the intro to ‘The Thorn’ features a really cool riff, complete with pinched harmonics, whilst there’s a dark, sinister, cinematic feel to the music. The slower tempo helps to build up a sense of drama, which is something that the entire album benefits from – the star of the show in many ways is Jon Phipps because without him, the music would also lack the depth and atmosphere that is a strong component of the Terra Odium sound. And to underline that point, check out the final minute or so of ‘It Was Not Death’. If more of the album was like this, I’d be raving about it.

I’ve got to be honest, but I’m disappointed. I have heard extremely positive things about Terra Odium on social media from sources that I trust as well as the normal background noise. As such, I know that ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ is a quality body of work. I’ve hopefully conveyed that within this review as much as possible. It’s just that, for some reason, it’s not for me. Clever, precise, and clinical, it just isn’t warm enough, melodic enough, or memorable enough to keep me entertained. But don’t take my word for it, as I’m just a lone voice within the crowd – give it a try nonetheless and I’ll be delighted if you like it.

The Score of Much Metal: 74%

Further reviews from 2021:

TDW – Fountains

Hypocrisy – Worship

W.E.B. – Colosseum

Navian – Cosmos

NorthTale – Eternal Flame

Obscura – A Valediction

Nightland – The Great Nothing

MØL – Diorama

Be’lakor – Coherence

Hollow – Tower

Doedsvangr – Serpents Ov Old

Athemon – Athemon

Eclipse – Wired

Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers

Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

Beast In Black – Dark Connection

Thulcandra – A Dying Wish

Omnium Gatherum – Origin

Insomnium – Argent Moon EP

Kryptan – Kryptan EP

Archspire – Bleed The Future

Awake By Design – Unfaded EP

Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile

Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery

Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

Necrofier – Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s