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Orden Ogan - "Easton Hope" (CD)

Orden Ogan - "Easton Hope" CD cover image

"Easton Hope" track listing:

1. Rise And Ruin (2:16)
2. Nobody Leaves (5:57)
3. Goodbye (4:10)
4. Easton Hope (6:49)
5. Welcome Liberty (5:46)
6. All These Dark Years (5:47)
7. Nothing Remains (6:46)
8. Requiem (4:58)
9. We Are Pirates (7:34)
10. The Black Heart (6:00)
11. Of Downfall And Decline (8:51)

Reviewed by on March 4, 2010

"Despite shopping at the same stores as all the other melodic power metal bands, Orden Ogan manages to take their ingredients and concoct a brand of power metal that is very well cooked."

Power metal, despite the outward ease, sheen, and good times, is a tough genre. “Troo” metal bands and fans dismiss power metal as saccharine slop, critics (myself often included) ride power metal bands hard for writing derivative slop, and it is difficult for most power metal bands to write music that isn’t at least a little humorous, ironic, or in hock to the past. But as one of AFM Records’ numerous power metal releases of 2010, German melodic power metal band Orden Ogan is one of the few that break the trend.

“Rise and Ruin” is the expected dramatic orchestral intro track, and it fittingly sounds like the final, inspirational dirge before the great battle, slowly building from a lonely piano melody to a full blown continental call to arms. What follows on “Nobody Leaves,” however, are twin guitar chords and an avalanche of drums that are more fitting on a twenty year old thrash album than a melodic power piece. The only hint of power metal during “Nobody Leaves” is the vocals. And while Seeb’s vocals carry the battle standard to glory, the musical base is streamlined, muscular, and heavy.

Now let’s not kid – Orden Ogan certainly throw in their fair share of keyboards, choirs, and strings, but the thrash guitars and 32nd note solo breaks are never far away, and they never let the more cliché elements dominate the soundscape. And this keeps the album out of Sugar City and Over-Produced Metropolis. Most of the heavy lifting is done by just the five guys in the band. Keyboardist Nils get particular credit for providing emphasis and leads when necessary, but not rolling into constant and shiny atmospherics.

“Goodbye” is a military march that slowly takes us farther and farther into the muck, the title track is dirty boogie that slips in some grand choruses during the slow build to a humanity-sized end, and “All These Dark Years” is a chunking and chugging stomp through the forest, complete with piano and backing choir. The consistent front half of the long player sets up well but ultimately gives way to the real gems, which also happen to be the final three tracks of the album.

“We Are Pirates” features Majk Moti of Running Wild and is exactly what it should be, owing much to Orden Ogan bringing their focused and not overwrought style to pirate power metal. The one time Orden Ogan really cuts loose on record, the band plays free and happy, and despite the lame cliché of pirate metal, the song is a blast. Cheesy video including hammed-up studio shots, auto-tuned vocals (!), dueling guitar solos, and amazingly trite lyrics about the fantastic life of pirates makes this a whole thing a sweet hoot.

“The Black Heart” is alternately a speed metal exhibition and epic battle’s take on power metal, with guitarists Seeb and Tobi delivering their fiercest swordplay of the entire album, backed up by Ghnu’s death-metal precise drumming. But album closer “Of Downfall and Decline” is the highlight of the album, with Dream Theater-styled sections competing with Blind Guardian influenced choruses for dominance, all wrapped in epic lyrics, soaring melody, and gloom-and-doom drama.

While all of the above may seem like rote power metal formulae, it isn’t. Despite shopping at the same stores as all the other melodic power metal bands, Orden Ogan manages to take their ingredients and concoct a brand of power metal that is very well cooked. Be it the tight songwriting (mostly – see “Requiem” for a break from form), the serious perspective on the album (mostly – see “We Are Pirates” for a good time), or the well done production (mostly – Lars’ growling bass should get more exposure), the band gets (mostly) stellar results.

If you are ready for a trip to a time when mystical beasts roamed forests, great battles routinely determined the fate of races, and every man, woman, and child had a lyrical poem ready to slip, then these silvery tongued guides are at your service.

Highs: “Of Downfall And Decline” is what every power metal epic should be.

Lows: “Requiem” is easily the worst song on the album.

Bottom line: German melodic power metal that is just done better than everyone else does it.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 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)