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Reaching for Heaven and Then Falling Short - 80%

Evil_Carrot, June 7th, 2010

Order of Nine is a band I first came into contact with when they opened for Sonata Arctica at a shitty little ex-skating rink of an “arena.” I remembered thinking the performance was great but they seemed like a slightly odd choice for an opening band, since the brand of power metal they play seems a lot heavier than Sonata Arctia’s. Anyways, what was supposed to be a short set was extended to about an hour and a half because apparently two other opening bands pulled out last minute. Someone happened to mention Order of Nine was local, from about an hour away from where I lived. My friend and I were impressed enough by them to try to get a CD by them, buy they had sold out. He ended up with a necklace, and I ended up with a shirt. We later got some CDs online.

So, on to my review for the first album I listened to, their third full length as Order of Nine (after the name change from Templar), A Means to Know End.

The first thing I noticed about the CD is the way the guitar and drums sound. There’s a lot of crunch to the guitar, and the drums somehow feel not natural. I don’t know exactly how to describe it. When I listen to the production quality on a CD or in my computer it just doesn’t sound right. But if I try to listen through headphones it somehow feels even worse. So I have to say I’m not a fan of the production quality.

Single Shot is a great way to start off the album. It’s a powerful track with some good fast aggressive riffs, and you get a feel for what Michael DeGrena can do with his voice. Other reviewers have made comparisons to Geoff Tate’s voice, which is a comparison I made myself at the show. He seems to have a similar range; however his voice is VERY raspy. I can’t honestly say I’ve heard vocals that sound both so raspy and yet can hit notes like this before.

Single Shot is followed up by the title track, which begins as a slow, clean intro track before exploding into a good power metal riff. The drums still don’t sound right to me, but the guitar’s distortion seems to have been toned down. This is followed by Devotee, which after a short spoken part and the sound of an ocean, goes into another clean intro. There’s also an acoustic guitar which seems to do a short almost Flamenco-like guitar solo, before we get to hear the baritone part of DeGrena’s voice. The song has a powerful distorted chorus, and then goes back to the clean riff for the verses.

Devotee ends up being the longest song on the album, still only clocking in at less than 5 and a half minutes, but I feel keeping their songs short works in their favor. Devotee seems like the kind of song that if any longer, would lose your interest, and yet many bands tend to try to make songs like this long and epic.

In the Know has a drum and power chord like intro before exploding into another somewhat fast paced track, I enjoy this track enough, but it’s not exactly a stand out. An Offered Hand is another interesting track with some Middle Eastern sounding stuff during the chorus, which I must admit, is always a sound I enjoy hearing in metal, but I wish it had been done on a guitar and not a Keyboard. Also if there is keyboard on any previous track, it’s not really noticeable. This is the first time it stands out.

Ghost of Memories is another track beginning with a clean intro, with some singing deep in the mix, before going into a song that’s a little slower than mid-paced. The main riff is a kind-of start-stop chug, with the clean guitar over it and this song probably ends up being one of my favorites. It has a good atmosphere in my opinion. Gods at War and Ninth Knight make up the low point of the CD for me. While solid songs that don’t make me feel the need to skip them, they just don’t capture my attention like the rest of the album. Show No Remorse brings the quality back up some, and then comes the album’s closer, fittingly titled (I suppose) Last Dance. This whole track is based off of one acoustic riff, and Michael DeGrena’s deep haunting vocals. I actually think it’s a good way to end the album.

A Means to Know End is a solid metal album, albeit with some questionable production in my opinion. You may have noticed I didn’t single out any of the solos. While all decent, none of them are mind blowing, nor are there any lame ones. In a way this describes the whole album. It’s a solid effort. No songs truly blow my mind, but there aren’t any that suck. If you’re a fan of U.S. power metal, it’s worth checking out. Just don’t expect too much. It’s just decent, fun power metal.