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A child born to a hopeless world. - 87%

hells_unicorn, December 6th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, Digital, Independent (Amazon)

There has long been this tired cliché that power metal is uniformly light and happy sounding, like a lone child of the Svartalfar who constantly longs for a life in the forest among their lighter counterparts. A more discerning venture into this sometimes maligned sub-genre reveals a far more complex picture, even when putting aside token moments of darker influences in various songs by the mainstays, there are many bands that are about as playful and merry as a dreary existence in the darkest and most inhospitable of marshlands. This is the place where bands like the Spaniards of Basque Country otherwise known as Orion Child dwell, a place of fatalism, cynicism and rage where the villains and heroes alike wear black and are not so distinguishable from each other, with a correspondingly dark and forbidding sound to boot. Though their body of work is still fairly small and their rate of output fairly sparse considering they’ve been at it for almost 15 years, they present a sound that reflects a level of maturity reserved for a band with three times their existing catalog.

Offering up a rather bleak yet passionate conceptual sophomore effort in Into The Deepest Bane Of Hope, the characteristic sound that emerges is actually a bit difficult to pin down. Dubbed a power metal act in many quarters, the actual musical picture presented listens a bit closer to a hybrid melodic death and power metal one with a highly progressive outlook. Where at one moment things could be likened to a chunky grooving take on Tad Morose, the next reveals something far closer to the technically tinged coldness and rage of bands like Disarmonia Mundi and Mercenary. Truth be told, the interplay between the lofty power metal vocal work and the Gothenburg-inspired barks could be likened to Scar Symmetry, if the Sci-Fi mannerisms of the latter were to be replaced with a more Gothic-like symphonic character and the technical guitar and keyboard were scaled back just a little. In short, there is a good bit more going on with this album than simply a darker shade of power metal; in fact, there is even a fairly blackened landscape similar to Behemoth that rears its head on a few select songs like “Deathly Relief”.

When getting past the seemingly daunting prospect of 15 individual songs, a fairly structured and methodical formula reveals itself. In typical conceptual fashion, there are strategically placed instrumental preludes and interludes that split the full length songs in smaller groups, forming a tetralogy of smaller stories that become progressively more and more woeful. Opening on a somber yet consonant note with the title song and prelude, which listens like a cross between a church oratorio intro and a John Carpenter soundtrack work, the story begins on an agitated yet fairly straightforward note with “No Return”. The next several songs follow suit, mixing a well-balanced mixture of punchy groove and faster thrashing elements, all the while putting a slightly greater focus on clean vocals, with “Search For Truth” and “Fallen Gods” being the most ferocious yet memorable. Towards the tail end of this musical journey, things proceed to get darker as the death metal and blackened elements become a bit more pronounced on select crushers “Doomankind” and “Deathly Relief”, then blasts to an outright chaotic conclusion on “Invictus” and then fading away.

To call an album like this an exception to the rule, even when the rule is left vague, is a definitely understatement. It doesn’t really offer up songs in the traditional sense of the word, but rather elaborate compositions with a structure that is more easily understood as varying degrees of aggression vs. melody, with the latter just barely coming out on top. About the only real charge that can be levied against this otherwise highly effective blending of styles is that it might prove to be an acquired taste given all the various moving parts. Though it can be best described as a highly ambitious hybrid of melodeath and power, it lends itself quite heavily to the progressive crowd that tends to go for outfits like Scar Symmetry, and maybe even the recent outings of more power metal oriented outfits like Adagio and Dark Avenger. Whatever one’s persuasion, this is a place where lines tend to be blurred, and those who will gravitate to it the most are those with less of a direct attachment to established clichés.