When I really started to wrap my head around the debut album by Michigan’s The Omega Experiment, I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach a review, or even if I was going to have the courage to dig deep enough to do this album the justice it deserves. The album comes from a unique and fresh direction, with an amazingly complex musical structure and a conceptual theme that is deep, intricate, and very, very personal. Add to that the fact that I relate on a personal level very closely to the story, so much that I could have written much of it myself since I lived it. Oh, and the overall execution of all these details is done to near perfection. I kept finding myself getting so wrapped up in the intricately lush pillow of sound that they delivered that I kept losing my focus on what was at hand and what was going on in the music. The band was in complete control of me for quite some weeks. Eventually I was able to maintain control, enough at least to get some words down, but still, I do need to be vigilant lest I phase out of this world and into the music’s.
I know I’m not alone in this either, there has been some solid fanfare for this product. When The Omega Experiment released their debut EP, Karma, it caught the attention of none other than Devin Townsend, who tweeted ,”Great, great work man! Seriously great stuff Dan, I fully back it and appreciate the effort you’ve invested.” Now the Dan he’s referring to is Dan Wieten, one half of the creative force behind this album. Him and his cousin Ryan Aldridge are the band, with some vocal help from Victor Lazareus, Jeremy DeWitt, Bob Guthrie, and Brian Seabout(he does the epic scream at the beginning of Furor), and mixing by Acle Kahney of TesseracT, but it’s the two cousins who do the bulk of the work, with Dan on guitar, bass, sampling, and production, and Ryan on keyboard and sampling. The fact that these two were able to pull of this album is a wonder in itself, to do it so far above the bar set by the countless bands in the home studio game can only speak to a tremendous amount of talent on their part. I will be blunt here, they put every ounce of that talent into this album, and it shows.
The album opens with Gift, and opens with a fanfare worthy of applause itself, about a minute of classic and intense orchestration of multilayered instruments, something that is one of the highlights of this album. They don’t mix here, they gently push the sounds together so they are all nice and snuggly with each other, delivering from beginning to end that lush and ethereal sound. Then the song gets rolling and we get the first taste of Dan’s wonderful voice, full of passion and emotion. This is where they start to hit with the thematic elements of the album, which is inspired from the previous years of Wieten and his excess living, especially drug abuse, and his strive to create a better life for himself. Now this is a subject I am intimately familiar with, having done my own time in these realms, so to say the album hit me deep is a great understatement. Lyrically he touches on so many of the dark and ugly truths of this lifestyle. Lines like “I’m shamed and it’s over, I know how to please her, but what am I waiting for?” speak to the core of the desperation and the….lost…feeling of being trapped in the vicious cycle.
Next up on the cue is Stimulus, and this one opens with a breathtaking series of hard notes accompanied by some stunning vocal harmonies. I am stunned each time I hear it, but it doesn’t end there. The harmonies get blended with some seriously well thought out drums, then as smooth as can be, they transition into a full speed prog metal sprint. I should note here that the drums are all programmed on this album. Of course saying that is like saying the Mona Lisa is painted, they do a fantastic job of it, and I’m curious to see if the touring drummer can keep up with the out of control pace the programmed drums set. Personally I always preferred a live drummer, it adds that extra bit of creativity to the writing process(see Dream Theater’s A Dramatic Turn Of Events, brilliant drumming, but a bit soulless since Mangini wasn’t in on the beginning of the process). Now back to the song, which happens to be my favorite, and the longest at a touch over ten minutes. This is the one song which comes close to encapsulating all the myriad sounds that The Omega Experiment is capable of. Brilliant vocal harmonies, stunningly epic rises and crashes, lush ethereal soundscapes, wonderfully hidden spoken word samples which act to enhance the thematic elements, and even so, they do bring other elements in other songs. What stuns me the most is even with this rogues gallery of musical stylings they bring to the table, they nail every single one of them. Case in point- around the five minute mark, they have a stellar guitar solo, layered with vocal harmonies, sharp drums popping in here and there, then go into a miasma of soul crushing sounds and crashes, only to smoothly segue back into a near epic vocal finish that slowly drifts off in gossamer waves of keys. It’s damn impressive folks.
The album has nine songs which total over fifty minutes. Each song has a one word title which pertains to a different aspect of the addiction and recovery cycle, but each also contains all the other aspects too. It’s such a real portrayal, in that each phase of recovery isn’t a passing point or a hash mark on a checklist. It all weaves in and out, the good and the bad, and Wieten portrays this aspect so damn well. The only time he hits real dark range is on Furor, which rips open with a brutal onslaught of pretty damn much everything, then has a soulful and heart wrenching scream that leads into the song proper, a mechanically dictated rage and fury. Even here though, the softer aspects come into play. And by soft I don’t mean quiet or slow, but just comforting. The album never lets you go completely, even when in its darkest points of rage. It always has that soft comforting touch at the ready. Furor leads into Bliss, an instrumental piece over spoken word dialogue which pertains to some of the harder parts of the recovery process, the confessions and the moving forward instead of letting the past hold us down. It is an incredibly powerful two minutes of art.
Karma is the next song, and it is another one of the more epic style pieces, in that it brings the whole “kitchen sink” approach, bringing all the toys to the sandbox so to say, and they have a ton of fun with them. The especially wonderful part of this is the harmonies of the vocals that switch to growls, then with a peircingly shrill scream, go into an instrumental section bordering the insane. The next song, Terminus, basically reaches into the chest and massages the heart and soul. Opening with the soft drops of the guitar and some more perfectly placed spoken word samples, the real soul of Wieten’s voice shines so brightly here, as he pours everything he has into the line, ”It’s just too easy to stay inside behind closed eyes, and everything fades away….”, and from there moves into a more aggressive range, but still with that damn loving hand to help us along the way. The middle segment, I’m not even going to try and put it into words, just go buy the damn album and hear the brilliance for yourself. From here it trails down in intensity only, with the soft guitars, Wieten’s vocals, the insanely intense lyrics, and the waves of the ocean coming in and out, in and out, in and out, and into the finale, Paramount. Though there is some closure thematically here, as stated before, the multitude of emotional directions is well represented. The love and the sorrow, the joy and the loss, it is all a part of it, of us, of life.
Now I didn’t go into my usual thematic detail with each song here. For starters the review would have entered dissertation range, and also, especially with this album, I really want to leave some surprises. This is one of those where you should sit down in the dark with your best headphones on, and check out for an hour. Let the music carry you away, and The Omega Experiment does just that. They take you away from where you are and bring you to somewhere else, possibly a somewhere else where you need to be. And they do it with intensity, with passion, and most importantly, with love. If nothing else, this album has a tremendous amount of that.