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Orden Ogan - "Ravenhead" (CD)

Orden Ogan - "Ravenhead" CD cover image

"Ravenhead" track listing:

1. Orden Ogan
2. Ravenhead
3. F.E.V.E.R
4. The Lake
5. Evil Lies in Every Man
6. Here at the End of the World
7. A Reason to Give
8. Deaf Among the Blind
9. Sorrow is Your Tale
10. In Grief and Chains
11. Too Soon

Reviewed by on December 4, 2014

"Orden Ogan has evolved into so much more, having immersed a trademark sound with elements of the ever influential Blind Guardian and Running Wild, but one that has become so unique it appeals to more than just the average fan of European power metal."

There has always been something about Orden Ogan that has made the band step out from the prototypical “Euro-power” boundary…a darkness, if you will. Perhaps it’s the post-apocalyptic “Road Warrior” look of the stage outfits, which ironically fit perfectly with serrated riffs that emote with an industrial edge. Better yet, it is the overall sound combining the beauty of fantasy with a jagged gritty blue collar delivery, as if to laugh in the faces of power purists who demand everything be so “squeaky clean.” Perfection comes in many shades….especially black. I’ve been guilty of calling Orden Ogan the second coming of old Blind Guardian, but that really isn’t fair. Orden Ogan has evolved into so much more, having immersed a trademark sound with elements of the ever influential Blind Guardian and Running Wild, but one that has become so unique it appeals to more than just the average fan of European power metal. With “Ravenhead,” the band has reached its defining moment.

When “To the End” was released, there was a distinct separation from the holy trinity of “Easton Hope,” “Vale,” and “Testimonium A.D.,” both in terms of sound and production qualities. It elevated the band to a different level. As classic as the first three albums were, the full effect took some time to grow with multiple listens. I can almost see some of you shaking your heads thinking “Are you kidding? ‘Nobody Leaves,’ ‘We Are Pirates,’ ‘Farewell,’ ‘To New Shores of Sadness,’ ‘The Lords of the Flies’ were ‘instant classics.’” Sure…hindsight and multiple listens would make any of those "correct." In fact, it took “Vale” and much of “Easton Hope” a lot more time to resonate at the time they were released. “To the End” was truly an instant classic and nothing the band wrote before that had such staying power. Now with “Ravenhead,” fans can expect even more of the same – starting immediately with the “masculine humming” of the eponymous intro track.

“Orden Ogan” starts off like that opening scene out of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” with that gang chorus of “Hoist the Colours” (minus the kid). It has a real pirate feel, even more so than Running Wild has ever conjured…only it has nothing to do at all with the age of piracy. “Ravenhead” – the song – kicks in and the band never looks back….saw-toothed riffs from Sebastian Levermann and Tobias Kersting overlay Levermann’s distinctively clean, yet gleefully abrasive, vocals. The chorus jumps out immediately, with no surprise. Orden Ogan has become one of the best at impact choruses and they come no better than what you will hear on “F.E.V.E.R.” This one sticks in the mind so well I’ve found myself subconsciously humming it as I awake each morning. Encircling the chorus is a riff (not too far removed from “Land of the Dead”) and a subtle, but impressive bagpipe. The sheer number of times you'll hear “False believer…true deceiver…she’s the F.E.V.E.R….stealing the life from you” may seem repetitive within in the 4:24 minute track, but it sure is effective!

At this point, we get into the real meat of the album, “The Lake” and “Evil Lies in Every Man,” the two best tracks not named “A Reason to Give” (more on this in a bit). “The Lake” starts with a riff like a handsaw to steel…complete with broken teeth and sparks flying everywhere backed by Dirk Meyer-Behorn’s tommy-gun drum strength. “Evil Lies in Every Man” takes the now uneven barbed saw and buzzes through panel board….against the grain! Both songs are deliciously rough in stature, though the album is phenomenally produced (by Levermann himself, who has quickly become one of the best producers in Europe). “Evil Lies in Every Man” has a creepy vibe right from the start as an old woman sings the chorus in an equally craggy voice, a chorus that is the best on the release. The best part, though, is the sudden eruption into a “Prelude to Madness” style with dramatic orchestration at 3:31.

“Here at the End of the World” (featuring a guest appearance by Grave Digger’s Chris Boltendahl) ends the torrid and brilliant first half of the release, with a chorus not far removed from Turisas' "The Great Escape." The second half of "Ravenhead" never quite reaches the same stratosphere of energy as the first five songs. “A Reason to Give,” a personal favorite, is another emotional tear-jerking power ballad a la “Take this Light” or “Ice Kings.” Like Blind Guardian, Orden Ogan's ballads are as much a staple as the album's heaviest tracks. That being said, it doesn’t detract an iota from the perfection of this album…it just goes at a more deliberate and “cleaner” pace. “Deaf Among the Blind” is the speediest on the second half and it even has a little tinge of Evergrey (you’ll know it when you hear it). “Sorrow is Your Tale” features a guest vocal appearance from HammerFall’s Joacim Cans and features yet another outstanding chorus in an album chock full of them. Rounding out the album is the instrumental “In Grief and Chains” and the ballad “Too Soon.”

“Ravenhead” has it all, with odes to the band’s past and major influences, but a straight line up from the direction of “To the End.” It has even more insanely catchy choruses anchored by saw-toothed riffs and Seeb’s patented clean, yet gnarly vocal style. For Orden Ogan, it gets no better than this. For music, its another victory for songwriting and the right amount of hooks. Germany prevails yet again…and Orden Ogan has the formula to erect a tower that stands eye to “eye of Sauron” with Blind Guardian.

Highs: More insanely well written songs, catchy choruses, and deliciously serrated riffs.

Lows: Once again...the extreme metal lover has little to cherish.

Bottom line: Simply stated...."Ravenhead" is Orden Ogan's defining moment.

Rated 5 out of 5 skulls
5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)