Saturday, February 7, 2015

Orden Ogan – Ravenhead

Orden Ogan’s debut album came out over a decade ago, but it wasn’t until 2012’s “To The End” that it seemed like this band really blew up in popularity. Naturally, this makes the follow-up to that album intriguing because the band has the opportunity to grab a lot of attention in the metal world. Though “Ravenhead” is not as strong as “To The End”, it is still an incredibly promising release with many great tracks. Like its predecessor, this album is frontloaded, with the two singles being the most impressive songs. The title track begins with a riff that is pure tremolo-picking bliss, and quite obviously an homage to the great Running Wild. It isn’t too long before the band moves into their more common sound, driven by Sebastian Levermann’s fantastic vocals. Like many other tracks, this song gets by on its catchy chorus and great vocal lines. Orden Ogan knows how to amp up their choruses by making superb use of backing vocals, not unlike one of their biggest influences, Blind Guardian. This trend continues in the next song, “F.E.V.E.R.”, which is undoubtedly the best song on the album. Once again, it is the band’s infectious enthusiasm that will bring you back to this song.

With those two songs out of the way, there is still plenty of good material left, but none that ever reaches those heights again. Two other tracks of note are “Here At The End Of The World” and “Sorrow Is Your Tale”. The former features a guest appearance from Chris Boltendahl from Grave Digger, while the latter features Joacim Cans from HammerFall. Boltendahl’s vocals are a substantial departure from those found in Orden Ogan, but he is used incredibly effectively. He adds another element to the song, and helps prevent it from sounding identical to the rest of the album. By contrast, Cans’ appearance is definitely a bit more in line with what Orden Ogan typically sounds like. Fortunately, Cans is quite possibly the best singer in the world (is it too obvious that HammerFall is my favourite band?) and he elevates this song substantially. In both tracks, guest singers are used as a pre-chorus that build up to choruses that are naturally quite epic and grand. As a side note, it is refreshing to see power metal bands lending out their vocalists to one another much like Kai Hansen and Hansi Kürsch used to do.

It may be obvious, but “Ravenhead” is a great album because it accentuates what Orden Ogan does well. It features plenty of riffs that are absolutely bludgeoning, even for power metal (check out the intro to “Here At The End Of The World”, which is probably better suited to a melodeath album). The band’s guitars are far more aggressive and muted than most of their peers. Despite this, the shredding on this album is both technical and catchy. A solo like the one in “The Lake” will definitely grab your attention, as it isn’t simply a neoclassical scalar pattern, but instead, something a bit more uniquely crafted. Additionally, Orden Ogan puts a large emphasis on rhythm relative to other power metal bands. This doesn’t just come from the guitars; the drums are usually pounding away with double bass, and the vocal lines are very fluid, particularly when there is an army-like choir supporting the lead vocals. This makes for a cohesive experience as it sounds like every instrument is working in tandem to get your head banging.

There is one big problem with this album: the intro to “Evil Lies In Every Man”. I have no idea what the band was hoping to accomplish here, but it is essentially a creepy man who sounds like he is dying, while he repeats the chorus a couple of times. Sure, it’s only 40-seconds, but it is one of the most head-scratching things I’ve ever come across. Not only does it sound awful, but it completely interrupts the flow of the record. The song itself is up to par with the rest of the album. As always, it is driven by a huge chorus and eternally heavy riffing. That blemish aside, the band continues the rest of the record without any hiccups.

Ultimately, “Ravenhead” is a solid effort. Orden Ogan certainly has the ability to stand tall against the giants of power metal, and with a bit more consistency, they will certainly do so. Clearly they’ve already caught the attention of HammerFall (the band they’re currently on tour with). If you are new to the band, “To The End” might be a better starting point, but you can’t go wrong with “Ravenhead” either.

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"Sorrow Is Your Tale"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Written by Scott

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