Black metal has been having a weird and strenuous decade. It seems that, more so than even the other genres of metal (not known as particularly stable things), black metal has been constantly undergoing change. This change manifests culturally, aesthetically and, of course, musically. Some of it manifests in new things, in new ways to be black metal, new ways to think about black metal and new ways to sound black metal. As with all such periods of deconstruction, reconstruction is sure to often follow; in the wake of so much innovation, it’s only a matter of time before bands start to reach back across the haze of irreverence and rebellion to bring back some of what made the genre work before it underwent dismantling.
That wave seems to be emerging for black metal these days. Bands like Imperium Dekadenz or Thrawsunblat are making, amidst a flurry of post black metal and blackgaze bands, black metal that is truer to the source of the genre. Which is not to say there is nothing modern about their sound; rather, it’s that we’re talking of an alloy, a mix of metals of different qualities, containing a hint of the source material that binds it together (quite an apt metaphor, right?). Enter Orm, a band determined to etch out a place for themselves in the ranks of black metal bands appealing once again to the root of what make the genre tick.
The band’s self titled debut accomplishes that by relying on massive, overwhelming black metal. The first adjective that comes to mind when “Blood of Your Blood”, the opening track, first play is “HUGE”. Everything is just written so damn large: the guitar and their tones are monumental, the drums are thick and thundering and the vocals (both higher pitched and lower, “backing” growls) sear through the mix. The overall sound then is very much of the old school. Everything goes as hard and as epic as possible, evoking the grandiose and larger than life feeling that first spawned metal.
Amidst this approach the modern elements are strewn. First, the mix itself. The fact that we can say that the “vocals sear” across it is first indication of how damn good it is. Definition and instrumental “space” is not exactly something that this type of black metal is known for. However, Orm achieves parts of its size by giving the different parts of it room to breathe. This enables, for example, multiple guitar tracks to be clearly audible on “Ancient Echoes”. They add just one more layer to the already expansive structure of the track and contribute to the feeling of awe the music attempts to evoke from the listener.
Other elements other than the mix hint towards the modernity with which the album is imbued. The prominent strings on the first track and the drum break present around the two minute mark and, later on, some of the riffs and their type of tremolo picking are all very much part of the here and now. The primordial nature of the release always hangs in the backdrop however; where other, more “post” black metal albums would turn contemplative at times, Orm just keep plowing on, building riff on top of massive riff. This, of course, also births the obvious downside of the album; at some point, you need a break and this album just doesn’t have one.
But, to be honest, it doesn’t really need one. It might just be the demands of our contemporary ear and its approach to black metal that asks for it. When we let go of that demand (while still taking pleasure in the numerous string parts and choirs replete on the album for example) we find a powerful album that isn’t afraid to see its course all the way through to the extremes for which black metal has always been known. It also helps that Orm are conscious of just how dense their sound is and don’t overstay their welcome; both in overall runtime and track length, Orm has beautiful poise and an perfect instinct on when to cut and run, calling it a day.
Oh, there’s also that part at five minutes and thirty eight seconds on “Temple of the Deaf” and it will absolutely rock your world. That entire track in general is just too good. Review done, go listen to it.
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Orm was released on March 24th. You can grab it right through that Bandcamp link above.