Every now and again we come across a band that’s doing something completely different to anything else we’ve heard before. Florida’s Steps of Odessa are one such example, fusing intensely heavy deathcore with scintillating synths and classical and jazz inspirations in their “progressive metalcore” sound.
The Orlando six-piece is formed from an alternative rock and heavy metal background of twin brothers Robert (vocals) and Matthew Wassum (drums), Paul Kalugdan (guitar and vocals), Peter Fleites (guitar and production) and Keith Landrum (bass), alongside keyboardist Matt Gutkin, who brings a fresh flavour to the sound as a Jazz Studies major. The result is undoubtedly extremely heavy, but also has a refreshingly light, melodic and spacey edge to it.
To give us a taste for this intriguing proposition, the band sent us the supremely good Obsidian Skies, the opening track from their new EP by the same name that was released at the start of this month.
It opens up with spinning synth and a low guitar noise, then a cool riff over more synth sounds. That drops into a huge cry of “Life has changed since then, Can we return to the past?,” which is met by an onslaught of savagely heavy drums and guitars, as the vocals continue. They end with huge guttural screamed vocals “Our bodies have assimilated, Pushing through the Obsidian skies, This is where hope for humanity lies,” then it suddenly drops into twinkling synths and booming blasts of low-tuned guitar.
A repeat of the last two lines feed into clean vocals “Can we become a species to be admired and not just a waste of life?” then the huge screams instantly pick up the baton once more as the synths continue. That ends with a huge drum roll and a cry of “Go” taking us into an instrumental section of chugging heavy guitars and insanely good drums.
The big vocals return and end with huge cries of “Leap into the black abyss of nothingness” supported by more intense drums and guitars. The awesome opening guitar riff returns and amazingly we’re only at around the half-way point in this intoxicating song!
The clean vocals repeat, then the screams of “Pushing through the Obsidian skies, This is where hope for humanity lies” give way to a huge breakdown with booming stabs of low-tuned guitar. Then a funky synth and booming guitars support a repeat of those screamed vocals then big cries of “Obsidian skies.” And light synth sounds ease us to a calming ending.
This is a stunningly good song and you can check it out in the video below, which is pretty damn awesome too:
Sticking with the new EP, second track Enemy of Creation jumps straight into the heavy stuff with stabbing guitar and synth riffs over intensely heavy drums. Huge screamed vocals take over as the unrelenting drums continue, then drop into a delicious little guitar solo that feeds into another barrage. Give it a listen here:
The EP continues with this delicious fusion of heaviness and synthy delights, including a huge booming riff on Clouds and R.E.M., on which a light, laid-back instrumental section intersects an intensely heavy opening and conclusion. And it closes out with the huge Goddess, on which booming guitars and drums are delightfully supported by a light keyboard line, then huge guitars and a cool solo bring the EP to a fitting ending.
And for further proof how intensely good this band are, check out the video to Wasteland from their debut EP of the same name here:
We had a chat with guitarist Paul Kalugdan and keyboardist Matthew Gutkin to find out more about the band. Read on below…
GR: Who are Steps of Odessa?
PK: “The band was formed in 2015 in Orlando, FL. Matt Wassum and I met at Valencia College and were initially in an alternative rock group. We both had interest in heavy metal and all the brutal stuff, so we decided to start our own group. Matt’s twin brother Robert joined the group as our vocalist. Matt Gutkin joined us as our keyboardist. A current Jazz Studies major at the University of Central Florida, Matt adds a unique flavor to our music. We were excited to finally be in a unique sounding band and excited to take on the challenge.”
GR: You just released Obsidian Skies. What should people be expecting from the song?
PK: “The single started out as just an instrumental bit that we used as an opener for our live shows. I expanded on the music, adding little elements from different metal genres that I loved. Robert really gave the song a direction and message with the lyrics. I see it as a message to humanity that we can do better as a species.”
GR: How would you describe your sound to people that haven’t listened to you yet?
PK: “To make it simple, it’s intense, modern, heavy metal music with spacy synthesizers. We take from a lot of different subgenres of metal. I think it’s worth a listen.”
GR: What influences you to write music? Any key themes or topics that you write about?
PK: I think I can say that the desire to create unique music that we are all proud of is the initial inspiration for all of us. When it comes to a message, though, I think overall we speak as observers of life and society: the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
GR: Which bands/musicians are/have been your strongest musical influences?
PK: “August Burns Red, Periphery, The Devil Wears Prada, The Dillinger Escape Plan, among many other progressive metal groups inspire the sound of the band. As musicians, we all have a wide variety of influences, not based in any genre.”
MG: “I started out with Classical and Romantic composers, then switched over to hip-hop and rock, dipped my toes in some dance, and am currently studying jazz. Most recently I’ve been digging deep into pianists Brad Mehldau and Tigran Hamasyan.”
GR: What have you got coming up in 2020? New music, new gigs, recording etc…?
PK: “Well, if the world decides to return to normal, we want to play live shows again. More than anything. We worked very hard to create this record so it would be nice to finish this year properly performing the music. As for after that, who knows?”
MG: “We have a new record, entitled Obsidian Skies, available for purchase and on all streaming services.”
GR: Anything else you’d like people to know about you/your music?
PK: “I think I really just want people to listen to and enjoy the music. We work really hard to make it and practice relentlessly when we can.”