Orden Ogan – Ravenhead (AFM Records)Thursday, 15th January 2015
Transforming themselves from folk metal to power metal over the years, Orden Ogan set their sights on larger headlining stages as they appear to take a layered gauntlet Blind Guardian set up during their mid to late 1990’s albums and add more bombastic/cinematic elements to their foundation. Their fourth studio album To the End in 2012 made quite a stir worldwide, including an appearance in my top 10 end of the year list. Ravenhead as a follow up could have easily been delivered as T.T.E. part two and a majority of Orden Ogan’s followers would be satiated, but fortunately the quartet believes in forward progress and as such these 11 tracks contain a more dynamic, mature outlook and seasoning.
The choirs are larger, easier, and folkier (if you can believe it) for audiences to grasp – ‘False…Believer!/True Deceiver!’ from “F.E.V.E.R.” still reverberating incessantly in the recesses of brain matter every time I take in this whirlwind track – which moves from mid-tempo double bass madness into this half time, power riff that has me picturing body surfing and unison crowd chanting. “The Lake” as a follow up has a slower, heavier opening riff that builds into this shimmering, cascading guitar/vocal cavalcade, taking Queen and Blind Guardian to new levels, panned choir action adding heightened sense of bombast. Guest vocal action from Grave Digger’s Chris Boltendahl on “Here at the End of the World” and Hammerfall’s Joacim Cans for “Sorrow Is Your Tale” gives vocalist/ guitarist/ keyboardist Sebastian ‘Seeb’ Levermann supplementary support for delivering words and melodies in different ways.
Orden Ogan could easily spend an album ramping up the speed and expending energy at lightning paces – but Ravenhead explores more of the middle of the road to ballad arenas, only using blitzkrieg, heads down power for spots of emphasis. “A Reason to Give” could be a future set list highlight a la “The Bard’s Song” for BG, primarily acoustic and choir driven with splashes of orchestral percussion that gains an electric ramp up half way through, while the closing slow number “Too Soon” contains enough power chords and sweeping emotion to open many human tear ducts. Kudos to drummer Dirk Meyer-Berhorn throughout, as he keeps his playing solid, in the pocket and fulfilling, propelling the main chords and choruses for the title cut and standard power slicing “Deaf Among the Blind” to glorious heights.
It’s easy to hear why Orden Ogan are ascending to top tier level in their genre, and Ravenhead will do nothing to dissuade those already indoctrinated in their coven.