Influence is a divisive subject in any artistic community. Where does influence end and plagiarism begins? How can you define originality and is it more important than skill? The metal community has had its share of controversy on the subject, in recent times as well. We won’t pretend to give a definite answer in this review, but Orion‘s debut album Yugen is a strong case in favor of a view that sees influences and roots as crucial things. Relying on them, cultivating your connection to them and giving them your own voice is a powerful tool for creation. This is evidenced by the fact that when Orion channel their predecessors well, the album is strong and evocative. It’s when Orion try to strike out on their own, introducing a foreign sound to aforementioned predecessors, that the album loses a lot of its edge and impact. It’s not bad at any point but some parts carry much less force.
The main theme Yugen bears is the unmistakable influence of TesseracT. The vocals are emotional, blending with an ambient sound to create a highly charged atmosphere of yearning. Opening tracks Naut and Ocean are brilliant creations of atmospheric metal, not falling short of any of TesseracT’s more ambitious works. The vocals are well maintained, losing none of their accuracy even when striking high notes that send shivers down one’s spine. The drum work is solid, delivering a stable spine for the technical riffs and leads that carry the main theme of both tracks. The bass is characteristic to the sound but well executed, so it remains engaging and groovy. Heavier parts exist, punctuated with growls and lewd solos but all in all, the first half of the album is a fine example of ambient djent, if you will, the staple TesseracT sound.
Somewhere during the half way mark for this short release, only 24 minutes in length, the weight shifts. The first half of Legion is eerie and haunting, opening with an intensely bizarre vocal note. However, that quickly changes: the heavier parts are now the main theme. The change sweeps across the board: the guitars now prefer more metalcore breakdowns and riffs, exchanging power for grace. The growls take command, with the clean vocals regulated to a supporting role while the drums and bass hang back, supplying the base for this heavier note. Sadly, Orion don’t execute this new theme as well. Instead of a real connection with their sound we now find reiterations which sound tired and contrived. The music becomes expected rather than anticipated.
Instead of the feeling of tribute and a deep synergy that was felt in the first part of the album we now get the sense that Orion felt obligated to a heavier part. Lacking the conviction to write one, they sampled past acts, Misery Signals perhaps, to fabricate the necessary sound. And so we return to our first point: a true connection with past influences can create great music. It might not be groundbreaking but it gets the job done; it evokes emotions and remains interesting for the listener. However, when referencing existing sounds because they easily achieve their goal, one creates a watered down and bland copy. When Orion focus on the first, Yugen is a convincing and enjoyable release. When they slip into the latter, influence quickly turns to repetition. Happily for us, the former has most of the weight in Yugen, creating what is ultimately an endearing release for fans of the genre.
Orion – Yugen gets…