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Orchid has been my favourite new band for the last few months. It one of the best discoveries I made this year, honestly, and for "Capricorn", it is in my top 3 best albums of 2011. As a fan of retro rock, vintage rock, you name it, I can't pass by without saying some nice words.
The first song I heard from this band was 'Eastern Woman', which by the way is not from the album I'll be talking about. Since then, it has been my telephone ringtone. I tried changing it, but it stubbornly returns after some days. As a composition, it is not something very difficult as a comparatively good player will be able to play it. I'm someone who thinks hard rock should be kept simple just as these guys do. Orchid play this good old rock that, according to me, is the way rock 'n roll should sound: tight guitars, the proper attitude towards the music, riffs that will force you to repeat it in your head, and vocals that have balls. No cheesy singing and no references to soap operas with dragons saving gothic girls. No, this is Black Sabbath in their best years. When Orchid have something to say, they say it with pride and seriousness with clear vocals sung by a man who knows what he is doing.
Even if the music is not very complex, you can see from miles away that Orchid are fairly good musicians. "Capricorn" is not only very different from the modern metal albums (how much I hate modern metal is not even a reality), but also has a character of its own. You would be able to say which song is which after just one listen. There are no fillers here. If I have to pick up my favourite songs from "Capricorn", they will be "Eyes Behind the Wall", "He Who Walks Alone", and "Electric Father". Anyway, as I already stated, all the songs are very good, so your favourite ones can easily be other songs.
I hope I managed to convince you to hear my little heroes. Recommended for fans of Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master of Reality), Graveyard, and Saint Vitus.
San Francisco California based Orchid just set the bar a little higher for old school style doom metal bands. Blending heavy psych, occult rock, and doom metal into a brand new package, the quartet come from world renowned German doom metal specialist label, The Church Within.
Ever have THAT moment? You pick up a brand new album from a band you’ve never heard of. You’ve seen almost no one mention it. Looking at the cover you notice three things. One, that’s a badass goat on the album cover (the zodiac’s Capricorn?) Two, the name of the band is Orchid and that was one fucking hell of a Black Sabbath song. Three, the band’s logo is in old school style heavy psych font. Batting 1000 so far. You open that bad boy up and immediately within the first guitar riff you know you are going to love the sin out of this album. That’s what Orchid‘s Capicorn was for me.
Every time there is a band, such as Orchid, perceived as a modern trend whore from a style of music that seemed to have gone away from the limelight to return with all guns blazing, it is almost customary to throw out every band they seem to be ripping off out there. So what are they? Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Witchfinder General, Coven, Elias Hulk, Iron Claw, Salem Mass, Necromandus, Pagan Altar… Should I go on? That’s just bands formed in the 60s and 70s. The good news? Orchid‘s Capricorn goes well beyond wearing its influences on its sleeves and creates some very unique music, full of grade A brilliant songwriting.
The mix is fuzzy and dirty by modern standards. Not quite a veil of obscuring smog that’s been purposefully crafted to sludge the whole album in a production of thick sulfur and not the light mist of modern production imitating something from the golden days of rock and roll. The production is foggy and heavy, drenched in reverberation and thick in rumbling bass guitar. So authentic and wonderfully thunderous is the bass guitar that it needs to be pointed out. Often times the bassist seems to be possessed by some unworldly demon as the groovy, funky, heavy psychedelic bass strings just dazzle out sinister bass rhythms. Heavy metal bass has never tasted so delicious.
The guitar is 70′s Tony Iommi worship manifest with its blues rock flourishes, psychedelic rock tone and heavy metal low end. Vocals are beyond perfect with their sharp, silver tongued bite. Sometimes crooning with malevolent dictation and other times melodically droning with impending calamity. The drums ebb and flow with tactile cadence, quivering and rippling through each track with throbbing evolution. The Moog synthesizer which adds a rare and exquisite layer of psychedelic vapor in several tracks is definitely one of the most notable additions to the formula. Often times setting Capricorn apart from the dime a dozen Black Sabbath clones, it fortifies Orchid as songwriting keymasters for the genre.
Orchid‘s Capricorn runs a little long for my taste. Often times I’ll bitch when an album exceeds 45 minutes. This one clocks in at near 60 minutes but I still seem to enjoy every minute of it. The songwriting is strong and instrumentation memorable. Each track on the LP is dynamic. All the songs seem to be standouts and I have to recommend this album to anyone interested in heavy metal and psychedelic rock.
Retro metal is turning out to be a pretty big fad right now. There are quite a few bands aping the more embarrassing side of 80's metal, in image as well as sound, and I can't figure out why anyone would want to do that. Thankfully, the Blue Öyster Cult-influenced Ghost is only the most visible member of a 70's revival. San Francisco's Orchid is another.
As you might guess from their name, Orchid is influenced by Black Sabbath. Actually, "influenced by" is probably the wrong way to put it. This is unabashed (original 1970-1978) Sabbath worship in every respect, from their name ("Orchid / Lord of this World", in case you missed that), to their psychedelic band logo, to their promo photographs, to every single aspect of their sound and dark/occult lyrical content. Vocals, guitar tones, bass, drums, every part of it sounds like the bluesy, psychedelic metal of Sabbath. And like the progenitors of heavy metal, Orchid writes some catchy songs.
Again, maybe "writes catchy songs" is the wrong way to put it. More accurately, they offer up alternate versions of Sabbath classics. "Black Funeral" is "Hand of Doom", "Down into the Earth" is "Into the Void", and "Albatross" is "Planet Caravan", to cite only a few examples.
That might not be such a bad thing. After all, even Black Sabbath dropped the Black Sabbath sound more than 30 years ago, so anyone else should feel free to pick it up again. And if you're going to carbon copy a band, I can't imagine a better one. On the other hand, doing something different with it wouldn't have hurt them a bit. The old-school production isn't as heavy as I'd like, and it's a tad quiet, and there would have been no harm in bringing some kind of modern musical flavor to the proceedings at some point. Orchid also seems to take a narrow view of what Sabbath was all about--even though they take some cues from not-so-classic tracks like "Who Are You?" (see "Electric Father"), their pace is always a doom pace. Sabbath played a lot of fast songs, too, or did we forget "Paranoid"? I was also a little disappointed to find "Black Funeral" wasn't a Mercyful Fate cover (hearing Sabbath covering Fate, even if it's not the real Sabbath, probably would have made me crap my pants).
The Verdict: Many of Orchid's songs are catchy (like the title track). But after listening to the album, I sometimes found the original Sabbath tunes stuck in my head, even though I hadn't listened to them in a few months. And then I just wanted to listen to Sabbath some more. You might want to do the same, and pass this one up.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/