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A Collection Of Blizzardy-Wintry-Icy Anthems - 90%

TheTrueMonster, June 29th, 2015

Orden Ogan is easily one of the most enticing power metal bands in existence today. The band brings a genuine sense of melody, adventure and battle to the fold of metal. In their live shows they depend heavily on audience participation to realise their extremely catchy choruses. "To The End" makes heavy use of these aforementioned choruses and it adds an immensely full sound to the album.

The album opens with the instrumental “The Frozen Few”, which gets the adrenaline pumping through one’s veins and sets the tone very well for the rest of the album. The title track sports an incredibly catchy (albeit not as catchy as “The Things We Believe In”) chorus and guitar solo. Unfortunately, the first five songs of the album are among the strongest of the tracklist, but that is not to say that the rest of the songs are bad. Quite the contrary, they are very good; it is just that the first five songs are THAT perfect!

“The Things We Believe In” could easily be regarded as the best power metal song of 2011, while the ballad-type song “The Ice Kings” could likewise be regarded as the best “non-metal” metal song of 2011. The guitar leads are awesome and catchy, making them stick inside one’s head for days at a time. The thing that impresses most about this album is the insane quality of both the guitar and vocal contributions (not that the drums aren’t good). The songs are incredibly well structured, making the listener feel a lot of emotion in almost every segment of almost every song.

The solos are also impressive, even while not being too complex. This album is a prime example of what guitar solos in power metal should be like: catchy, memorable and distinct. They aren’t just an assault of random notes going up and down a scale, but actually have structure and could be considered mini-songs within songs.

Some of the songs that are especially worth noting (although all of the songs bring something worthwhile to the battlefront) are “The Things We Believe In”, “Land Of The Dead”, “The Ice Kings”, “Dying Paradise” and “The Mystic Symphony”.

A candidate for best power metal album for 2012 - 90%

TrooperOfSteel, June 22nd, 2015

Germany’s Orden Ogan have enjoyed their swift success and climb up the power metal ladder ever since they released their brilliant second CD entitled ‘Vale’ back in 2008. Coming from out of the blue, this unknown band stood the melodic power metal genre on its head, and suddenly melodic power metal had been reborn. After the immediate success of ‘Vale’, Orden Ogan were poached by AFM Records and subsequently left the little known Yonah Records for greener grasses.

Orden Ogan’s much anticipated third release, entitled ‘Easton Hope’, arriving in 2010 was a great album, however it did not have the same initial excitement and breath of fresh air as ‘Vale’ did. I tend to compare Orden Ogan’s ‘Vale’ and ‘Easton Hope’ releases to that of power metal band Demons & Wizards (Hansi Kursch, Jon Schaffer) ‘s/t’ and ‘Touched by the Crimson King’. Those who are fans of that band would remember the awesomeness that came with that debut album, but the follow-up, despite it being a solid release failed to live up to the first disc’s quality, especially after the long wait between releases. So now, Orden Ogan have returned to deliver their fourth full-length CD, entitled ‘To the End’. The release date for the new disc has been pushed back twice, so the anticipation is high once again, so what are we in store for this time from this very talented band? Read on.

While still maintaining their core structures of soaring melodic power metal reminiscent of bands like Falconer and Kamelot, Orden Ogan has evolved nicely with this fourth release. Again they have stepped up the heaviness and aggression, more so than on ‘Easton Hope’, with vigorously charged and chunky guitar riffs, hooks and solos throughout. Orden Ogan’s proggy/folk metal atmospheric elements that made their music so refreshing back in 2008 are still ever present on the new disc, although going through the album, it appears that the amount of prog and folk elements has dropped away slightly, with the band leaning towards a heavier and modern melodic power metal style. The creative song-writing has remained consistent too, with the previous releases, while the emotion and passion that featured heavily in ‘Vale’ is also oozing from the new CD.

Orden Ogan fans who has the band’s debut album ‘Testimonium A.D.’, would notice when going through the tracklist for ‘To the End’ to find that a particular song has made a re-appearance, that song being “Angels War”. With so much difference and improvement from that debut CD to the new disc, especially with production and also experience, the lads have decided to re-record one of the better tracks from ‘Testimonium A.D.’, giving it a nice cut and polish and new life. The end result is a great song now even greater after been given the redo touch and ultimately one of the best tracks on the album.

The disc opens with a hearty intro which builds up epically into the opening bombastic title track “To the End”. A flurry of wailing melodic guitars riffs from Tobi and Sebastian Levermann, pounding double bass drumming from newcomer Dirk Meyer-Berhorn begin the speedy track. Feeling at home with Orden Ogan’s signature sound, including the well placed and atmospheric keyboards and Sebastian’s soothing, soaring and melodic vocals, “To the End” is a smoking hot catchy track which includes a blistering guitar solo that you’ll play over and over again until you’ve got your fill. Much like Orden Ogan’s previous opening songs (“To New Shores of Sadness” and “Nobody Leaves”), “To the End” is very much like those two tracks and easily on par in terms of kick ass quality as well.

The disc continues strongly with the next track, “The Things We Believe In”, which is also the first single from the release and a video was made for and can be seen on YouTube. After hearing a freezing cold blizzard, a warming acoustic guitar comes in before some bold and aggressive guitar riffs takes over. Sebastian’s vocals lead the way, mighty and strong, with choir singing in the catchy chorus. Orden Ogan’s typical folk elements shine through wonderfully in this mid-paced track, giving it an epic styled shade. “Land of the Dead” is another top-notch track, featuring some wicked groove filled guitar riffs that instantly make’s your head nod in improvement. With constant tempo changes and wonderful song-writing, “Land of the Dead” shows off Orden Ogan’s excellent folk metal side, but still maintaining their brute melodic metal aggression, particularly with the guitar riffs and thundering drumming.

The remainder of the album contains many more excellent and powerful tracks, including the epic and memorable “Till The Stars Cry Out” (one of Orden Ogan’s best songs ever, IMO), the upbeat, energetic and melodic “This Dying Paradise” (which reminds me of late ‘80s early ‘90s Iron Maiden), and the emotional, speedy and Rhapsody-inspired “Mystic Symphony”. Orden Ogan have always been the masters of beautiful and passionate ballads, and ‘To the End’ continues this trend with two wonderful and emotional ballads “Take This Light” (acoustic guitar, piano and Sebastian’s inspiring and melodic vocals) and “The Ice Kings” (a semi-ballad that includes drums and then electric guitars towards the end).

When weighing up the entire album, I am selfishly annoyed that there are only 11 tracks on the disc, because after hearing the release you are left wanting for more. Aside from that tiny little gripe, ‘To the End’ could have just pegged ‘Vale’ as Orden Ogan’s best CD to date, but of course this will come down to personal preference and musical tastes of the fans. One thing is for sure, the band has improved with every disc, as well as evolving naturally yet staying true to their roots. They have also matured very nicely as a band, while the song-writing has also been a massive highlight for fans with all of Orden Ogan’s albums and their songs are just so creative and not just your standard and generic sounding melodic power metal tracks that we’ve all heard time and time again.

Fans of the band will quickly obtain this release blindly as it is definitely one of their best to date, while newcomers to Orden Ogan will find this disc to be quite different and fresh to what they may have come across before. Lastly, fans of European melodic power metal will relish what Orden Ogan has on offer here with ‘To the End’, not to mention all their other CDs as well. A candidate for best power metal album for 2012, ‘To the End’ may have been late in its release, but hell, it is sure damn worth it!

Originally written for both www.themetalforge.com and www.metalcdratings.com (2012)

Incredible - 93%

PorcupineOfDoom, February 8th, 2015

Power metal isn't normally my thing, but I think I can make an exception for Orden Ogan. This is some really neat stuff, very well executed and quite original with the little influences of folk metal. I was expecting to hear something like Suidakra, but I'm actually glad that Orden Ogan have their own style.

First things first, this is admittedly a little weird. Power metal songs are not often epic in the same way as anything by Equilibrium or Amon Amarth, but on To the End every song has that feel to it. It's also very sing-along, but not in the same way as you'd get from a typical Dragonforce song. The two styles of folk metal and power metal also shouldn't fit together (in my mind at least it seems like an odd mix), but yet they do. And they do in a very convincing manner.

The first element in the formula for success that this band have is an incredibly talented vocalist in Sebastian Levermann. His tone is really captivating and there is never a moment that what he does isn't interesting or worth hearing. The choirs are a nice touch to add to the vocal department and really add that extra bit of strength. Nils Weise does a neat job of providing some backing vocals for Seb (or rather "Seeb" as he's known), but it's really down to Mister Levermann that the vocals are so good.

The guitars are great as well, performing a wide mix of different styles. At times there are typically speedy power metal runs, but at others the tempo switches to almost thrash. Then there are the solos, which are some of the best I've heard. At this point they tend to switch to a full-blown power ideology with some really complex sections, but it always sounds like so much more than a Dragonforce-esque mesh of random noises. It really adds something extra that wasn't previously on display.

The keyboards are a big part of this record too, getting many quiet and delicate sections on their own to show just what they can do, sometimes accompanied by an acoustic guitar. When the main force is with the guitars they tend to fade a little, but they're constantly lingering and adding a little more to the overall sound. The music would not be anywhere near as good without that little bit of touching up that they do.

Drumming is also worth some attention, particularly from all the drummers that can't do anything other than repeatedly bash the snare or play blast beats for the entirety of an album. Dirk Meyer-Berhorn delivers a very varied performance throughout (much like the rest of the band, fittingly) and showcases some real talent too. I applaud the guy, simply because drumming of his calibre is not so easy to find nowadays with so many bands hiring someone who is just average. Dirk, meanwhile, is adventurous and really has something to give.

I can't pick a favourite here because it is all worth listening to. Every minute was well spent here, and it's tragic that this band is so overlooked. Orden Ogan have shown the potential that they've got here, and I'm left seeking more of the same.

Rise to a frozen sky. - 95%

hells_unicorn, December 30th, 2012

Endless, barren wastelands of permafrost is a setting more readily associated with the upper reaches of Scandinavia and its glorious tradition of cold biting black metal. But winter is not unique to one particular region or style, and it is highly conceivable that a trailblazing power metal outfit could take up the theme and own it, particularly one with a respectable folk metal background not all that far removed from Falconer. Enter the somewhat old and established yet recently recognized Arnsberg wrecking machine that is Orden Ogan, embodying all of the fantasy-based clichés of the German speed/power tradition of Helloween yet transcending them musically at just about every turn. Pouring forth a surprisingly fresh, vital and ambitious opus in "To The End", one can hope for little else than that this will not be the ending chapter in an already impressive book of a career.

There is a somewhat fuzzy line to be walked between simplicity and versatility that any new classic in this style must walk, and for this band the tight-rope is taken with an effortless stride. Basic, to the point, chorus oriented song-writing is merged with a mixture of established yet not often combined influences. The lion's share of their sound is unmistakably German, drawing upon the high fantasy choir sound and mildly folksy aesthetic of Blind Guardian, the catchy arena-oriented flavor of Freedom Call, the rugged speed metal riffing and recurring melodic guitar lines of Gamma Ray and Iron Savior. Along for the ride are some rather surprising elements of modernity, culminating in a sort of stomping metallic groove character that isn't all that far from what a heavier Swedish band like Persuader or Nocturnal Rites might bring to the table, along with a handful of technically bound progressive riffs out of the Michael Romeo arsenal.

No influence is played up too obviously, and often times they seem to function as detailing amid a heavily original core sound that is familiar, yet quite unique. This core is found in the vocal personality of Sebastian Levermann, whose smooth, crooning tenor warrants some comparisons to both Kai Hansen and Hansi Kursch, if both of them all but dropped their signature dirty shouting style for something much more clean cut. It definitely loses no sense of passion or effectiveness by skipping the rasp, and serves as a convincing foil for what is largely a rugged, meaty metal album. The vocals are at their absolute zenith during the layered choral sections where anywhere from 2 to 4 vocal lines fill the ears like a grand concert choir might fill Carnegie Hall. Of particular note are the refrains heard on "Land Of The Dead" and "Mystic Symphony", which also happen to be 2 of the more conventional power metal anthems with drums and guitars blazing at full speed.

But perhaps even more impressive is the splicing of soft and loud into the arrangement, creating a massive level of dynamic tension and dramatic theatrics that catapults this albums many epic anthems into the sonic stratosphere. "Angels War" takes the cake in terms of contrasting ideas, throwing in some bone-crushing grooves to complement a dense, symphonic character in the outer reaches of the arrangement. Acoustic sections are likewise employed to full effect, conjuring up images of the many folksy interludes to adorn "Nightfall In Middle-Earth" and even some occasional ones of Ensiferum's "Iron". Keeping up the other side of the coin, however, is the spellbinding mishmash of melodic goodness ala Freedom Call meshed with an old school speed metal flavor in the mode of early 80s Accept (or early 2000s Primal Fear for a contemporary example) that is "Dying Paradise".

By the time "To The End" winds down after a successive display of borderline perfection, there is an imperative desire for repeated listens, to the point of wearing out the vinyl were it still the preferred medium of recorded music. Between the infectious melodies, the blinding virtuosity displayed in the guitars and all the lyrical goodness that goes with a high-fantasy mind set, this thing just can't seem to avoid its own greatness should the desire ever arise. One would do well to forget any of the stereotypes normally associated with power metal, but also be prepared to hear something that is so heavily characteristic of the style that it's a wonder that a singular object of imitation can't be found within the style's rich past. This is the sort of album that will undoubtedly come to Helloween's famed "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" saga, and is definitely not one to be missed.

Odes to the winter and the endless ice. - 89%

Empyreal, December 4th, 2012

Orden Ogan hit big with Vale back in 2007, but the follow-up Easton Hope was really boring and cluttered with directionless songwriting. I didn’t have much hope for this one because of that, and lead single “The Things We Believe In” didn’t sell me at all, and so I was dreading this as the drop-off point in a once-promising career that I once christened “the future of Power Metal” when I wrote the Vale review all those years ago. Fortunately the power metal gods are kind, and Orden Ogan have more flame in their sputtering engines than I feared. To the End, in fact, is one of the more interesting renditions of 90s power metal I’ve heard in years.

Orden Ogan’s big strength on Vale was the rather unprecedented originality in their songwriting. They had their big choruses and their speedy sections, but they weren’t afraid to dip into a quiet acoustic moment, a slamming, heavy hard rock groove or a Symphony X-esque prog lick, sometimes combining multiple elements like these in the same songs. The songwriting was exciting and varied, and To the End is definitely the work of the same band that made that great album. This album is more conventional and relies more on speedy, double-bass tinged sections of frosty bliss, but the originality is still there. If the down-tempo groove section, complete with Viking-like chanting, in the middle of the otherwise anthemic “Land of the Dead,” or the bleakly sliding, icy climes of “This World of Ice” don’t make for the most original power metal songs of the year, I’ll eat my hat.

If you haven’t guessed yet, the big thing on this album is ice. Ice, ice and more ice. Lots of ice. And the band carries the theme well, with a sort of loose conceptual feel to the songs and every song from the really fast ones to the slower ballads has the strong feel of an icy field at the brink of dawn, the freezing sun rising up over the hills and coating everything in an odd blueish-yellow light. If you want a good example of atmosphere in power metal, this album will do the trick. Vocalist Sebastian Levermann has never sounded better, and frankly after his weak performance on the last album, I was really surprised. On the old albums he was good but the music carried him, rather than the other way around. On To the End, he dominates the music with class to spare – his voice soars to the stratosphere and he doesn’t really sound like anyone else to boot. The closest approximation is probably Manticora/Fool’s Game singer Lars Larsen, but Leverman is better and has more charisma to him. It’s always good to find a singer who isn’t just trying to sound like someone else.

The music on here is squarely modern power metal that calls back old Edguy and Gamma Ray, with touches of Blind Guardian in the big choirs they use. Hell, “Till the Stars Cry Out” is practically worshiping at the altar of Edguy’s “Babylon” off Theater of Salvation; its chorus is so big and its melodies so lush. Orden Ogan keep things fast and dynamic on here, and with songs like “Dying Paradise” they recall the fondest days of the 2000s Europower scene and do them up with better production, a more professional sense of songwriting and heavier, more metallized riffing of the likes that old Freedom Call wouldn’t have touched. The title track is another great song and rocks out with a big, shoutalong chorus, and “Mystic Symphony” is just the best song Orden Ogan has ever written. Witness the power of this song, with its speedy riffs and that unforgettable chorus melody, which rises up like smoke from a volcanic crevasse; immaterial, ethereal. One of the things Orden Ogan do stunningly on here is the intricacy with which they play even the most generic power metal moments on the album, as every song has spot-on playing that is urgent, heavy as hell and energized. Even those generic trilling riffs and the double-bass parts sound fresh and cool on here.

It’s not all perfect; there are a few weaker tracks. “The Things We Believe In” is catchy but just too silly, like a Turisas or Ensiferum song – not the best comparison a serious album from a serious band can invite. Given how strong the rest of the album is, it really sticks out like a sore thumb. “Angels War” is a re-recorded song from the debut album that nobody ever heard, and it’s not bad. But it takes too long to start up and it just doesn’t have the same ‘icy’ feel as the rest of the album, and also lacks in the momentum and stirring energy too. Closer “Take This Light” is a nice ballad, but it’s a bit short and recalls the great “Candle Lights” from Vale a little too much to really be a great tune. So the album loses some momentum in its last few songs. The bonus tracks include “Masks,” which is a cool, groovy mid-tempo song, but it doesn’t really fit in with the icy theme, and a cover of Running Wild’s “The Battle of Waterloo,” which is good, but lacks the fire and anger of the original song – using big happy choirs doesn’t really suit a balls-out classic metal song like this one, guys, but hey, I’ll take it over Shadowmaker any day.

Overall, though, Orden Ogan’s To the End is good, really good. It’s a power metal album that both embraces the genre’s past and reaches into its future with better songwriting than the norm and a more adventurous sense of purpose than the usual clichés the genre is prone to. The songs are well done, the hooks are infectious and I am loving the ice theme going on. If Florida had an actual winter time, I’d be playing this every day – hell, what it must be like to play an album like this while walking in the snow, under a slate-grey afternoon sky. That’s how this should be heard. Sigh. If only I lived in a place where I could actually hear this in such a setting. Oh well. I’ll just have to content myself with Florida’s damp and soggy imitations of winter instead…

So yeah. Go buy the album.

A future classic - 95%

Andromeda_Unchained, December 3rd, 2012

Since the glorious Vale I've felt Orden Ogan have jumped from strength to strength, clawing their way up to the top of the power metal ladder. The band's fourth full-length To The End sees the band again jumping to strength, lynching us with what is their most streamlined, arguably complete effort. Somewhat of a slight departure from the dense mastery of Easton Hope Orden Ogan deliver eleven tracks of the finest power metal delights, honoring greats like Blind Guardian and Gamma Ray yet carving out their own niche amongst a genre seemingly on the rise again.

The first aspect of To The End that stands out to me is the album's stupendous, crystalline production. This sounds freaking great, with layered choirs and guitars wreaking bloody havoc across the best part of the hour. The multifaceted build seen in the surprisingly quality intro "The Frozen Few" sets the detonator before the band explode into a cascading firework display of modern power metal splendor. Backing up the vibrant sound are possibly the finest performances the band have cut to tape. The guitar work instantly speaks to me, weaving tapestries of spellbinding riffs into ear-pleasing melodies and pant-shittingly-excellent guitar solos; Sebastian and Tobi totally take names here. Niels and Dirk provide a tight pulsating rhythm section, with a thick slobbering low end provided via the former and a dynamic array of drum-battery from the latter. Nils' keyboards are particularly well done too, never overstated or intrusive adding a fantastical backdrop, with a slight icy tinge furthering the albums theme.

As for the vocals, I've mentioned earlier that they sound great. The band has clearly put a lot of time into the choirs and they sound massive. Some of the tracks utilize them almost solely and it really gives the band this kind of adventuring feel, which as a fantasy nerd appeals on so many levels. Sebastian's vocals are in general bloody great, putting forth a heartfelt and characteristic performance, wielding great power and a quality softer edge. If there's any downside to To The End I'd have to say that some of the riffs sound dangerously low in certain places (think Nevermore riffs a la Enemies...), and it kind of hurts the otherwise quality "This World Of Ice". Other than that relatively minor niggle this is all killer.

It would be remiss to sit and name standouts, as this album pretty much steamrolls everything in its way, including the competition. I will admit that it took a few more listens than expected for this to properly set in, and I'm still not sure if I like it as much as Easton Hope. However, if you're looking for some first class power metal to see you through the coming winter months then this album is a must have. Orden Ogan can pretty much count themselves among the power metal premier now, and if the band still eludes you I think it's high time you bought everything they've done from Vale onwards. Pretty much essential for any power metal fan, this one comes highly recommended.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com

Saviors of power metal! - 98%

Immortally_Insane, November 11th, 2012

Orden Ogan, the German symphonic power metal band rightfully called the “saviours of power metal” by PowerPlay Magazine, returned to the power metal world with the release of their newest album “To The End” this month. The album is full of chanting choruses perfect for those of us that enjoy singing along (as if we’re not sitting in our bedrooms by ourselves), fantastic guitar and bass work, driving drums, and killer keyboard accents. It is safe to say this is quite the amazing release for a struggling genre of metal, and may in fact be one of the best releases of the year.

The album begins with the intro track “The Frozen Few” complete with a delightful harmonized guitar riff, transitioning into an ever progressing driving instrumental that truly sets the mood of the album, causing you to fear excitement, hope, and even fear. The title track begins with remnants of the instrumental before it, but builds on to create quite the first impression of the band. A chorus well worth shouting along to – add in some nice thrashing guitar riffs and blasting drums – and you can’t help but feel extremely excited for what is to follow on the remainder of the album. And the band definitely does not disappoint on the following track “The Things We Believe In”. The band released this song as a single and produced a seriously breathtaking video to go along with it, which was a perfect first impression. This song is full of grooving verses and chanting and killer guitar work worthy of following into battle, which is the theme of the rest of the album.

“The Ice Kings” is a slow and beautiful track with great keyboard work throughout the intro. When Seeb Levermann’s vocals come in, I had a moment of reflection of all things in my life I once viewed as beautiful. All of a sudden everything I thought to be wasn’t nearly as beautiful as this song. The vocal layering in the chorus sounds absolutely beautiful over the instruments and has the possibility of bringing a tear to one’s eye. The emotion comes out in the vocal harmonies and is rather hard to ignore, but layer that on top of a soaring guitar solo, and you have justly reached perfection. By far, this is the best track on the album due to amazing song writing and vocal work.

Another noteworthy track, though they are all amazing in their own way, is the track “Mystic Symphony” which brings in some seriously driving drums and riffs. Yet again, the chorus steals the show, with its layered vocals and cleverly arranged lyrics. “Angels War” is over seven minutes of sheer heavy metal, and was originally supposed to be released on their 2004 release, Testimonium A.D. It does have a slightly different feeling as the rest of the album, but I’d say it fits in rather well, and is one hell of an enjoyable listen. The vocals have an angrier, less polished sound to them, which is in no way a bad thing as it is still very melodic, symphonic, and power metal, especially as the chorus comes in.

Any fan of symphonic metal, power metal, or heavy metal, needs to be aware of this band. I am ashamed that as an avid fan and supporter of the genre this album release was the first time I had heard of them. That being said however, they have seriously blown me away with one hell of an album. I am a fan for life and appreciate all of the talent that went into writing this album. Each band member has their moments to shine, with killer bass and drum work, great guitar riffs and solos, and keyboards perfectly arranged. The vocal arrangements still manage to steal the show for me, as Seeb has one of the most memorable and beautiful voices in the industry.

[Originally written for Metalholic.com]