Genres thrive because artists push boundaries. However, just because an album doesn’t make any moves to re-invent a genre doesn’t make it pointless. The metal scene has room for a status quo and perhaps even a need for it. New fans need a place to jump on and old fans need a few stops on the road to progress and enlightenment. Further, small steps forward are still meaningful. That state-of-the-art, ultra-dissonant avant-blackenedcore slam album will rightfully turn more heads and end up on more lists than a solid addition to an established genre but that shouldn’t take away any artistic merit from something more time-tested. After all, if an album doesn’t throw many curveballs and yet still manages to make you enjoy it then it deserves praise.
Orden Ogan has made an extremely enjoyable power metal record with Gunmen. Like fellow power metal acts Unleash The Archers and Witherfall earlier this year, the band manages to make their respect for the genre’s past clear while still finding new sounds to play with. Originally a small-time act in the folk metal boom of the mid-2000s, Sebastian Levermann, the mastermind and frontman of the group, has worked to make the act one of the most unique and fresh voices in the current power metal scene. There’s so much to talk about here not least of which is Levermann’s talent for writing choruses with lots of huge choirs. Just listen to the opening title track.
Most power metal is centered around the chorus but Orden sets themselves apart by the sheer scope of their hooks. The credits on this album include a 13-person choir that sings on basically every song. While 13-voices isn’t too big by classical standards, the choral arrangements added together with Sebastian layering his own voice Hansi Kurich-style creates a final effect that is overwhelming and beautiful. Tracks like “Gunman”, “Fields of Sorrow”, and “Finis Coronat Opus” demonstrate a master composer building on the genre’s rich history of vocal music and securing his place in the power metal cannon. It makes the band sound more than just over-the-top. The voices mix in with the rich symphonic arrangements and the scooped-out guitar tones to create a Spector-esque wall of sound. It’s a musical experience of true magnitude.
Though the focus of the album on a first listen might be the brilliant voices, the other instruments are far from neglected. As previously mentioned, the symphonic arrangements (also played by Sebastian on keyboards) are just as rich and complex as the choral arrangements. This is clear from the first epic headbanger to softer moments like “Come With Me To The Other Side”, a track Sebastian sings with Liv Kristine of Theatre of Tragedy and Leaves’ Eyes fame. The players spare no ounce of aggression even on a righteously melodic venture like this one. Take for instance the track “Forlorn and Forsaken” with it’s chuggy opening and clever guitar-driven bridge before the final chorus. “The Face of Silence” has a comparable amount of aggression and thick (thiccccccc) riffage with an extra helping of emotion thanks to the clean guitar sections and shredding.
While the ridiculous costumes might deter you, Orden Ogan are creating some real art here. It flows like a great album should with variety, drama, and expert compositions. Gunmen has everything a power metal should have and more. Every song is at least good and a majority of them are great. Before this album, I never thought the phrase “Vampire in a Ghost Town” would get stuck in my head and now I can’t stop singing it. It’s big, it’s easy to enjoy, and it’s masterfully put together. Give this thing a try!
Gunmen is available now via AFM Records.