Thursday, May 2, 2013

Orchid: the Mouths of Madness

This is the San Francisco band's second full length. They raise their bongs high in honor of Sabbath, though the would come much closer to wearing the tag of occult rock or vest metal, than doom. Part of this is the groovy shuffle they tend to move at rather than any depressing drag to the grave. First listen it hit me as the were paying tribute to "Sabotage" era Sabbath and "Megalomania" can be heard on the opening title track. However vocalist Theo Mindell some varied influences to the table I can hear Trouble and well as Savatage in his voice. His high tenor rasp bringing to mind Jon Olivia, though more rock n roll and without the theatrics.

This Sabbath boogie continues on "Marching Dogs of War", though it has more blues to it. Live these guys must be hell on wheels as there's a certain jammy looseness that sounds like if they were having this much fun in the studio, they must really party live. So perhaps the hold to the old Sabbath motto "We aren't a rock band that does drugs, we are a drug band that does rock."

The first hint of what could be doom comes by way of "Silent One". It's very "Paranoid" era in its approach but when it kicks in it goes "Masters of Reality". Production wise they did a good job of replicating the seventies feel though a little creativity comes in on how the vocals are sometimes panned and a few bells and whistles with vocal effects. When the songs take some twists and turns , they never veer far from what Sabbath would do. They is a blessing and a curse depending on how original you need your stoner rock to be. I think it would benefit the bad in finding their own identity to take the songs to other places and coloring between the lines here an be the easy way out.

The first non-sabbath related influence I hear is Deep Purple on the intro of "Nomad", though it kicks into a very "Snow Blind" riff. Granted you can't beat me at playing name that Sabbath riff, so if you are a stoner rock band that finds me reviewing your album you are getting caught resin handed. The vocal melody does headin a more Trouble direction rather than using an Ozzy pattern. Though this one even is bold enough to have a slowed middle section like Snowblind.

Likewise "Mountains of Steel" starts of like they are going to try to go In a more original direction and they go into "Killing Your Self to Live" , so they get props for at least stealing from more obscure sources.
Theo has some pipes on him that's for sure and he's doing more of an Ian Gillian "Born Again" era Sabbath than an Ozzy. The piano part on this takes it to a more Purple place...and yes I'll get around to reviewing the new Deep Purple. I do like the vocal melody at the end of this one and his singing the most likely thing to make me hold onto this album. The guitar solos aren't shabby, but I have always though Iommi was an under rated shredder.

Here on "Leaving it all Behind" we are pulling from many elements of Volume 4 as well, as "After Forever", leaving the vocals to keep the from becoming a tribute band. If there were ore keys on this album then I might start thinking Deep Purple, so not only is this not Doom but this album is only heavy metal if you are using the 1975 definition. There's a b section where I hear the indentity under the influence and it's pretty groovy if they could Letgo of the Sweet leaf security blanket.

More "After forever" on "Loving Hand of God" the vocals remind me of the Nineties band Sugartooth here, who was a post grunge band from New York. I Like the fact the bass driving it takes them to a darker place, even though it's not St. Vitus much less Evoken, I can appreciate what's going on here. Though midway I'm ready for them to go somewhere else with the riff and they go hit Sabbath almost note for note. They do it well and tighter and sound more like Sabbath than the tired old "Is God Dead" ....I think jamming out more in the studio is a direction they need to head as the glimpses you get is where they best stuff is.

They get heavier on "Wizard of War" it reminds me of "Trashed" from Born Again. So casual listeners who only own Black Sabbath's greatest hits won't get this reference or many others so this could work for them. In my hometown where they type of robbery is the norm these guys would be huge, I wonder how it's working out it San Fran?

ok it's funny that the title ..."See You On the Other Side" is also the name of a solo Ozzy song. Theyhoweverrefrain from a power ballad and if you a very riff ruled rocker. This is one of the least Sabbath sounding songs on the album, it's a little more Blue Oyster Cult , I suppose. I will give this album a 7, because while their excellence is in their execution, it's almost like playing name that tune, they have potential but need to come out from behind the looming influence of Black Sabbath, as really what band is not influenced by Sabbath, some just pay more tribute than others, Orchid does it to the point of not assuming their own identity, but they do it well.

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