Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

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 clich├ęs 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.