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5 stars Don't shoot ME, I'm only the messenger- This is a spiritual journey.

Here are words to describe Olivia Hadjiioannou, otherwise known as OH.:

Obsessive. Thorough. Perfectionistic. Musician. Artist. Driven. Thoughtful. Reflective. Spiritual. Brilliant. Profound. Guide. Provocateur. Prophetic. Seeker. Thinker. Student. Teacher.

It's important to know this when listening to "Metallia", and no, it has no relationship with a heavy metal outfit you may have heard of in other sectors.

"Metallia" is the third album released by Ms. H. with her musical career apparently taking wings in her childhood. She is a multi-instrumentalist from Greece.

Titles and concepts in this fairly short EP are drawn from alchemy, and although I am not a scholar of that lore, nor of C. G. Jung, Ms. H. does appear to be one.

Therefore, for better or worse, I found myself doing some background reading on alchemy and some of the terms mentioned in explanatory materials Ms. H. provided.

Although the entire EP is around 25 minutes duration, it is a dense, complex work that made me work for it. A lot.

Every minute of the background study and the multiple listenings were well-worth it. Although musically far distant from that found in "Orbitas" from Chilean band TRYO, I thought the intentions and concerns of each are closely related.

OK. Back to that term "Spiritual Journey".

Ms. H. explicitly states her intentions are to take listeners on "a six-part journey to extract from your mind pure visions, to mend your mental pictures, preen presumptions and to elicit an element of the unexpected?. because that is what will transmute your subliminal mind map into a remarkable blueprint which will lead you from wherever you are now, to wherever you want to be."

She uses ancient alchemical terms and ideas in the titles and subtitles to illustrate this journey. I think it's commendable that Ms. H. took considerable time and energy, as well, to describe and illuminate these concepts in her website.

The quest for the "Philosopher's Stone" is the stated aim, and in essence that means becoming spiritually integrated and aware, able to transcend forces that attempt to crush and destroy the human spirit.

An old saying from the recovery world goes something like this: We are not human beings having spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having human experiences.

For me, this album focused on that idea.

Now, the music.

Cacophonous, complex, illustrative, dense, awash in radiance, terrifying, challenging- all of it driven by the taut, ferocious guitar work and instrumental mastery demonstrated by Ms. H.

Waves of feminine choral sounds weave in and out of the tapestry, washes of intensity rarely relenting, leading me to recall why at one point in my younger days I was strongly drawn to consider using psychedelic drugs. Mind expansion, spirit expansion. Transcendence. Enlightenment.

I thought the music must be considered a language of its own, and interpreting another's language is risky and delicate.

Yet, if you do take time to listen and not only listen, but HEAR, you will be rewarded, even, perhaps, transformed.

Report this review (#1955556)
Posted Sunday, August 5, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Metallia" is a new EP-album by Olivia Hadjiioannou, Athens based composer, song-writer, multi-instrumentalist, and sound-producer who under the name OH. has been creating and publishing music since 2013. "Metallia" is the third release in the artist's discography. And this is my first experience of listening to OH. music on a physical disc (top- quality manufactured CD-digipak with 16-page booklet).

It's said that "Metallia" is a single 25-minute epic composition while each track on the CD is just a part of it. In accordance with the booklet, each Part/track depicts a symbol or a scene with several symbolic elements. For example, "Red Lion" is presented as a holder of the inner Fire; he inspires intelligence, imagination, and life but he can't escape the prison of the Earth plane and can't free himself with his own power. Or "Bee" who is a collector of spiritual gold which in fact is experiences obtained under the varying circumstances of life. Or "Dragon" who is an epitome of the universal unconscious and can give the wings to travel within the inner realms. In other words, the album's (or to be more correct, the composition's) dramatic concept is pretty close to the Tarot card game, while the album's idea is to reveal it through purely instrumental music.

In general, "Metallia" fits well the subgenre category of Experimental/Progressive-Metal but the specific elements of music are changing from one Part of the composition to another. Whether the accent throughout this multi-layered and texturized sonic content is placed on fierce time-shifting electric guitar soloing, massively grooving riffs, ecstatically blasting beats, or acoustic guitar flamenco patterns, delicate violin passes, bewitching toumperleki splashes, and sultry esoteric vocalizations - everything is subordinated here to the purpose of revealing a dramatic symbol or a scene of several symbols in its multicolored, emotional and esoteric density and complexity. No lyrical vocal here, though judging from "Sleeping World" EP (2013) and a series of four non-album singles (2016-2018) Olivia H. is an amazing dramatic singer. I would say that her ethereal wordless vocalization performance sounds perfect in the context of "Metallia" and brings more expression to the instrumental music. In some sense, Olivia H. follows the same pathway than Lili Refrain, female composer, multi-instrumentalist, and sound-producer from Rome, Italy (not featured at ProgArchives, I guess). But I mean only general creative principles and visions, as OH. music is less dark, ominous, delirious, and arguably more "progressive".

It's still a mystery to me, how a young lady like Olivia can invent, perform, and produce such a gorgeous piece of musical art. I suppose she got somehow a blessing from the forgotten gods of Olympus... No, really. It's a wonderfully creative and inventive EP which sounds much more substantial and thought-provoking than many recordings from well-known grandees of modern instrumental Prog-Metal. My only complain is that the album is way too short. The ideas and visions of this music definitely need to be expanded and developed. Nevertheless, if you dig into conceptually illustrative Experimental/Progressive-Metal with mastery and mystery, heart, intellect, and passion - get "Metallia" for sure!

Report this review (#2021920)
Posted Tuesday, September 4, 2018 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars 'Metallia' is the sixth release from Olivia Hadjiioannou, who kindly operates under the name "Oh." so that us poor reviewers don't have to keep copying and pasting her surname to make sure we spell it correctly. Before I even get onto the music on this six-track 25- minute-long EP, I must make a mention of the packaging. Firstly it has been released physically, not just digitally, as a digipak. There is great artwork when it is opened up, and this continues onto the CD itself so that it forms part of the picture. This depicts Olivia sat half naked on the top of a mythical beast holding an electric guitar aloft, and it feels very classical in nature, which also ties in with the artwork on the front cover where she is depicted as a warrior. The small booklet features the rationale behind each instrumental, along with details of what she played, plus more artwork. There has been a great deal of care put into this and I found that I was impressed even before putting it into the player ? remember, 'Metallia' is a self-release, not funded by a label.

And then we get onto the music. If my ears are working correctly, I believe that Olivia is playing all the instruments she mentions, as opposed to triggering samples, which means that as well as playing guitar and bass she also provides the drums, toumperleki (the goblet drum ? I had to google this one), violin, keyboards and vocals. Vocals here are used as an additional instrument, with no lyrics as such. The two words that immediately spring to mind when playing this are "intensity" and 'chaos", but in a good way. It has ended up on PA in the Crossover category, but arguably this could be in prog metal, eclectic or even fusion, as it is all over the place with influences. The title is apt, as first and foremost this is a heavy album, full of multiple types of shade and complexity, with a little light here and there to provide relief. Time signatures change, bombastic elements come in and out, and it really feels like the listener is being swept along in a maelstrom, or being put inside a washing machine when it is at full pelt.

But, the chaos does have purpose, and melodies raise their heads and allow themselves to be heard before again diving down again for cover as the force takes over. The result is something that in many ways is quite draining to listen to, as it is takes quite a deal out of the listener, at least if the correct attention is being paid towards it. It also needs to be played loudly, very loudly, but my sheep are used to hearing strange sounds going out to the paddocks and it didn't seem to faze them too much. This is the first release I have heard from Oh., and I look forward to what comes next as this is an incredibly complex and chaotic album that is a real discovery.

Report this review (#2025879)
Posted Saturday, September 15, 2018 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars The term "progressive metal" rarely gets me excited any longer as it seems for every innovative band that finds a way to craft something completely out of the box, there's about a thousand or more imitators ready to latch on to any possible shred of creativity released and eager to dumb it down until it's almost impossible to distinguish who actually started the innovation. Every once in a while though, some artist will find a way to create a stylistic shift that incorporates all the elements on the check list without sounding like Dream Theater, Symphony X, Fates Warning, Crimson Glory or Pain Of Salvation. Yes indeed. Progressive can transcend whereas the metal part firmly establishes some expectations.

And all the way from Athens, Greece we find one of those unique artists who has found a way to go somewhere i've never experienced and i have to admit that it's grown on me quite a bit. OH. (note the period that follows) is the abbreviated pseudonym and one-woman band aka Olivia Hadjiioannou who has cranked out a series of singles and three full releases. This one, METALLIA is the third and i'm not sure whether to call it an EP or an album because various sources list it either way but at a quick running time of only 25:22, i'm personally more inclined to call it an EP no matter what the artist deems it. That's just my take on releases under 30 minutes. There needs to be a United Nations declaration of human rights for these distinctions already!

Olivia or OH. is a true powerhouse as she single-handedly plays ALL the instruments on her albums. That includes the electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals. METALLIA displays her in full action as she cranks out six tunes that are designed to be part of larger listening experience and like the Greek version of Joan of Arc, OH. is ready for battle as seen on the album cover and ready to kick some serious Olympian ass. After hearing this feisty little metal battle of the sonic senses, you may also come to the conclusion that she achieved victory. This is a concept album albeit a nebulous one that takes its cues from alchemy. While those aspects of this album escape me, the miracles of the elements of the music that transmogrify my spirit are enough to convince me of the effects.

METALLIA is quite unique as it takes percussive cues from more traditional ethnic sources such as Greek and Middle Eastern rhythms which conspire to create unifying rhythmic flows but also offer strange time signature rich deviations from the hypnotic status quo. While the umbrella term of progressive metal surely applies, this isn't the standard verse / chorus / bridge / solo type of material. Rhythmically speaking, this has more in common with military march music than say the airy fairy nature of Riverside. The distinct percussive drive is like a horse ride through the battle field with a certain steady flow with unforeseen angular deviations that pop up when least expected. This bombastic initiative provides the necessary backdrop for the other two major elements that reside indecently from each other but work beautifully in tandem, namely the atmospheric keyboards and the crunchy guitar riff workouts.

The music is easily accessible upon the first listening experience but also has enough complex subtleties to reel you back for more. With the rhythmic pulse established, OH. cranks out a dense atmospheric underpinning that finds exotic synth patterns emerging beneath the guitar oriented distortion that actually follows suit rather than leading the way. Vocals are another unique aspect of OH. as METALLIA is almost wordless. Her unique utterances are mostly used as a supplemental instrument that eschews the need for words to convey meaning but nevertheless provide the appropriate emotional stabs as they provide the pulse of a human connection to it all. While mostly wordless, there are times when OH. simply repeats the same word such as on the finale "Triumph," where she celebrates the defeat of the enemy by reciting the track title throughout its run.

For all its brevity, METALLIA packs a punch like a quickened battle on Middle Earth. With the epic nature of classic Manilla Road and trance metal guitar heft that weaves around the energetic Middle Eastern percussive flow, OH. displays not only her metal idiosyncrasies unlike any other but fortifies them with some serious progressive workouts that allow the complex atmospheric overcast to create the perfect metal storm of sensual goddess driven bombast like Kate Bush joined Slayer and decided to conquer Rome. Add to that there are subtle flamenco and industrial influences to create one of the strangest albums to fall under the prog metal banner of the year. And during the short time this short little slice of metal heaven is in the midst of the battle of the forces it is quite satisfying in the end that the supplicatory pleas of "Triumph" are heard no doubt with the help of Aphrodite, Zeus and other Greek deities who enjoyed this album as much as i did! έξοχος!

Report this review (#2111930)
Posted Friday, December 28, 2018 | Review Permalink
Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
4 stars Another epochmaking one for me. Actually this is my first OH.'s creation, that rings my bell. OH. aka Olivia HADJIIOANNOU is a brilliant multi-instrumentalist and composer hailing from Greece ' a dream nation for me. Do hope I will make a Retsina toast with her. ;)

Retsina aside, every instrumental sound component via this whole album is clearly motivated and rigidly synchronized. Guess it would be a tough work for her to direct / mix this material for every single track. No suspicion she's done the hard work full of enthusiasm. And it's interesting she's included in Crossover subgenre in Progarchives ' every listener might have wondered why this album belongs to Crossover, I imagine. Basically she plays deeply and metallically ' she might create such a sound development with strong intention I guess, but the rhythmic basis is not tough for us headbanging and you can hear something catchy here and there. in acceptable melodic lines you should get immersed completely. And percussive footprints are definitely my comfort. Such a hearty seasoning should innovate her soundscape. On the contrary, each sound foundation is not so different from another for you enough to grab variation via her material maybe due to her massive attack to 'metal' but who cares? Her production along with splendid instrumental technique itself can be called progressive, let me say.

Anyway, Xinomavro in Naousa would be better for her deep, heavy soundscape.

Report this review (#2117972)
Posted Sunday, January 13, 2019 | Review Permalink

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