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Pennsylvanian power metallers Order Of Nine have tied a bow around their third album on Nightmare Records, and fourth in total. Seventh Year Of The Broken Mirror has been branded as progressive power/thrash, but both the progressive and thrash elements are quite minimal. I will call this what it is: fairly straightforward US power metal that backs off on the riffs to make room for a bit of keyboard support, which in itself is relatively tame.
Immediately evident is the band’s very subdued vocal approach. Middle of the register, slightly mournful, and often obviously electronically supplemented, Michael Degrena’s vocals are extremely unexceptional. There is no screaming, only occasional harsh vocals, and an almost ceaseless tide of bland, sometimes sung-spoken baritone that really wants to set me snoring. Really this is quite a dirge, and I haven’t found more dull vocals in metal for quite some time.
Well, it’s a good thing that this band doesn’t suck otherwise. The guitar work, while rarely something special, is quite attractive when it is the feature presentation (unfortunately, this is something that doesn’t happen often enough). However, during most of the verses and choruses, it rather takes a backseat, and the keyboard that accompanies it is often very much an afterthought. There are a few great riffs, some good solo work, and the occasional bit of supporting axework that gets me excited. On the whole, however, the drums and guitar are nearly the only thing that keeps Order Of Nine even somewhat open for consideration.
Now I know that this is USPM, about which I am less crazy, but memorable choruses are nowhere to be found. In fact, I don’t think there’s a single vocal melody on the entire album that I can recall to mind if I try. I found myself comparing this album at times to Evergrey’s debut, only with less interesting…everything. There is little emotional fuel here to catch the listener’s attention, the instrumental work is not good enough to work on its own, and for crying out loud, Degrana hardly raises his volume above his unexceptional canting. This guy is really the frontman and doesn’t do anything else? I guess Order Of Nine and I have very different ideas about what sort of role a lead vocalist should play. He’s not an awful singer, but the entire record sounds as if he should be BACKING a lead vocal line that simply doesn’t exist. Diphthongs and a little vibrato hardly do it for this listener.
I enjoyed “Eye Of The Enemy” and “Changing Of The Guard” for being a bit more driving and energetic, but I can’t really say that I enjoyed them above any average tracks that I’ve been listening to from other bands lately. Perhaps this just isn’t my cup of tea, but it strikes me as USPM without the power and the great screams. Seventh Year Of The Broken Mirror is only offensive because of hampering its own potential, and I can’t really think of anyone to whom I could honestly recommend this. Pass.
Original review written for Black Wind Metal
Now this is quite a hard one. Order of Nine has the potential to be an excellent act, but their potential is mired via bland vocals which really hurt their fourth full-length Seventh Year of the Broken Mirror.
Their sound on this album is quality, sounding the amalgamation of Eyefear, Brainstorm, Nightmare, Evergrey and a sprinkling of Symphony X. Totally mining the Progressive Power Metal vein, Order of Nine’s musicianship is first hand with a lot in the way of quality riffs, intricate rhythm patterns and some superb lead guitar playing. On that forum alone Order of Nine could happily tango with the big boys.
The major sore-point here on Seventh Year of the Broken Mirror is as aforementioned the vocals. They’re just so flat and uninteresting; although some of the lower ranges are good enough. Most of the choruses sadly miss their mark, and it’s all down to the vocals. “Dreamspeak” has the potential to be an excellent song, but the vocals completely destroy it. Listening to “Dreakspeak” in particular I can’t help but think Lance King should have chimed in, as this album is built for his vocal style.
There is a lot of good to be found in the way of the actual songs. With the majority of which featuring either a solid riff set, or some wonderful lead guitar playing. I really enjoy the more melodic/ ballad type tracks here on Seventh Year of the Broken Mirror. “Innocence” could be great, and at least the vocals aren’t as flat here. “Words that were Said” is a quality slice of Brainstorm/ Nightmare style Heavy Metal that shows the band at their heaviest and “Twelfth Talisman” shows the bands traditional 80’s riffing style nicely. “Eye of the Enemy” is probably the best song here though, certainly the longest and packed with a lot of quality moments.
I can’t stress how much of a shame this is. Seventh Year of the Broken Mirror would have been right up my street if not for the vocals. They’re just so dull, even the vocal lines in themselves have great potential but Michael Degrena just can’t sell them. This makes it hard to recommend Order of Chaos, and all I can really say is that if you can happily ignore the vocals and listen to this for its excellent musicianship be my guest. To anyone else, I feel you would be better suited to any of the acts I name dropped earlier.
Originally written for