OUSIODES debut release, The Grand Machine EP hit the Internet in September 2015. Before exploring the contents of this five-track EP I read its creator Ollie Bernstein’s description of it as being “musically eclectic while borrowing heavily from the neoclassical and power metal traditions of Japan and Finland.” The moment I see the word “Finland” in anything metal-related I immediately stop what I’m doing and dive in, so off I went.
The title track, “The Grand Machine,” leads in with an enigmatic 18-second introduction, with a sustained ethereal chord and some artful electric guitar arpeggios. At this point it could go in any direction. Around 18 seconds into the track the very fast drum track kicks in, followed by a sweeping and soaring synthesizer line. The only way to describe it is 16-bit-y, but in a happy video game sort of way. I was extremely surprised to hear the lyrics were in English and not Japanese. With the fast-paced, sweeping digital intro set in a cheery major key I definitely was not expecting that. Bernstein showcases some technical guitar playing, as he does throughout all five tracks. Vocally, in this track in particular, he does emulate an influence of almost J-Pop vocals by cleanly hitting notes with a smooth sustain, before resolving them with a very quick but concise vibrato. I could definitely picture this playing in the credits of any Anime episode or film.
The first three tracks are pretty consistent in style, which left me searching for some diversity. Then enter “Thrice Greatest” and my wish was granted when things suddenly get Medieval for a hot minute. There is a virtual flute voice that dominates the intro to this track, which tore at my heartstrings with some intense nostalgia as it reminded me of my dear Yamaha PSR-series 49-key portable keyboard I was given as a child in the early 1990s. While the selection of virtual instruments at the beginning of this track introduce some exoticism, I can’t help but have flashbacks to doing battle against giant pixelated scorpions in the desert on a dial-up Internet MMO I played many moons ago. I snapped out of it when the track reverted to being quite similar to the three before it. This track does feature some vocal auto-tune which is done strictly for effect, as it seems Bernstein knows his range and has no trouble hitting the notes on his own.
We finally find solid evidence of the Finnish metal influence in the final track, “Stand Up.” It has a folk metal flare in the percussion tracking and showcases some crisp guitar harmonies. To me this is the most interesting track, and definitely stands out as my favorite.
A few specific qualities of the music piqued my interest and lead me to reach out to Bernstein for comment on the release, which confirmed the hunch I had that this is a homemade project.
Upon speaking with Bernstein, I learned the EP was written, recorded and mixed in its entirety in his Boston, Mass. apartment and it was done as a solo project. All
acoustic guitars, electric guitars and vocals are performed organically by Bernstein. The bass (with the exception of the last two tracks) are sequenced virtual bass. All other instrumentation is also virtual.
Bernstein said he plans to seek band members to join him in order to perform the music live, and also plans to release a full-length album featuring guest musicians in the coming months.
A rating of 7/10 seems harsh, especially for fans of this particular niche genre. However, this is something Bernstein should be proud of. That’s a huge accomplishment for the first EP release of this one-man show, and he’s young to boot at only 22 years old.
Overall this is a solid release, which I highly recommend to fans of Dark Moor, Rhapsody of Fire, DragonForce, and any power metal fans who also dabble in J-Pop. At the end of the day this EP is a concept release, and I’m excited to see what the future brings for OUSIODES when Bernstein’s full potential is unlocked and his vision is realized.
You can stream this album for free at www.ousiodes.bandcamp.com
Release date: 17-09-2015
Reviewer: Erin Beese