In a year when two bands already dropped ill-conceived wild west themed albums with naturally disastrous results1, well-respected Germanic power metallers, Orden Ogan choose to ride into Devil’s Gulch on a white horse. And cheese followed with them. Gunmen is the bands unusual follow up to 2015s slick, enjoyable Ravenhead opus, trading in their armor and axes for six shooters, pemmican and saddle sores. If you think a Teutonic power metal band is a natural choice to tell tall tales of western lawlessness and frontier justice, I have a certain bridge I’d like to sell you, and it comes with free bagels for life! Dubious subject matter aside, Orden Ogan has proven a talented, creative crew with a Blind Guardian meets Rage style that’s easy to get behind, so one goes in hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. And surprise, surprise, Gunmen is not the complete locomotive and dirigible collision I feared it would be. That’s not to say it’s a K.O. at the O.K. Corral either. Regardless, this is a trend that needs to stop. I’d rather hear power metal about the Reformation or the suffrage movement than see these pirate-shirted types strap on chaps and spurs ever again. There’s simply no place in these cow towns for Blind Guardian or their progeny, but I digress.

Opener “Gunman” begins with a symphonic section I’m sure was intended to recall the epic spaghetti western soundtracks by Ennio Morricone, but it sounds more like something from Transformers XXII: Pneumatic Boogaloo. Once we get past that, we’re greeted with a nifty lead riff that’s pure Running Wild pirate glory trying to pass as a dusty cowpoke. Still, a good riff is a good riff and it leads to a galloping slice of Euro-power that works until the chorus hits. After the song builds up to something big, the chorus we get is flat and anti-climactic. Despite this shortcoming, it manages to grow on you due to the combination of slick guitar-work and solid vocals. “Fields of Sorrow” is the Orden Ogan I know and like, i.e. sounding like a poor man’s Blind Guardian and featuring their penchant for over-the-top choruses. This one works much better and has a nicely morose vibe.

“Forlorn and Forsaken” is respectably catchy, and “Come With Me to the Other Side” is a fairly rousing power ditty with ample bombast. “The Face of Silence” is the big anthem this time, essentially this album’s version of “F.E.V.E.R.,” with a huge Blind Guardian influence and a fist-pumping, brain tickling chorus. Upon hearing it, my first thought was “Where has this been and why did I have to wait 5 tracks to get it?”

Elsewhere, “Vampire in Ghost Town” sounds every bit of corny and goofy as the title suggests, and “Ashen Rain” is fairly run-of-the-mill. Lengthy closer “Finis Coronat Opus” redeems things by borrowing heavily from both Rage and Blind Guardian and ends up a standout with many interesting, engaging moments. It also serves to remind me what I want to hear from these faux-cowboys: over-the-top yet classy and polished power metal. Sadly, it’s not as prevalent on this album.

Sound-wise, the production is a bit too compressed to do justice to the band’s bigger-than-life style. This is especially noticeable on “Finis Coronat Opus” which strains to fly high like a symphony but is tethered to the Rock of Compression. It isn’t awful though and most won’t be troubled by it.

I’ve always been a fan of Sebastion “Seeb” Levermann’s vocals, as he reminds me of Hansi Kürsch. He does a fine job on much of the material, but he often feels pushed too far back in the mix, which sucks the life out of his vocals and prevents them from really popping. He also seems to be too restrained on many of the songs. Add to that the scarcity of winning choruses, which are so essential to this kind of Euro-power gobbledygook, and you have a problem. The guitar-work by Seeb and Tobi is high-quality as always with some inspired riffs and harmonies scattered about, but overall this feels like a less urgent, driving platter than what we’ve come to expect from Orden Ogan.

Gunmen is an album dancing on the cusp of being good, with just enough missteps to bring it back to the pack. Compared to past albums like Ravenhead, it falls short in memorability and replay-ability. Call it the curse of the ghost town or what have you, but since we’ve mostly seen the bad and the ugly come of this dubious trend, Euro-power bands should stop playing cowboy post-haste.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AFM Records
Websites: ordenogan.defacebook.com/ORDENOGAN
Releases Worldwide: July 7th, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. Sorry, Doc “Holiday” Grier, Ghoultown sucked rented mule ass.

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  • Alexandre Barata

    Too many 2.5/5 these last days!!! You got stuck because of Jorn cockblocking thing??

    • Ha!

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      Too many “blah” albums released lately……Ghost Mile is the last album that made any kinda stirring in my ear -loins……
      Some one needs to shake things up!!

      • brutal_sushi

        Can’t get enough of that album. Stupid Voyager and their catchy as fuck music!

        • HeavyMetalHamster

          It’s ridiculous.
          Too good.

        • jetblindracos

          Irresistible.

      • Levly

        Vintersorg didn’t do anything for you?

        • HeavyMetalHamster

          Still giving that one a test drive.
          It’s good….but not ground breaking imo.
          Just raring for something really special and haven’t heard anything in a while…

      • Alexandre Barata

        I think there wasn’t a single album that excited me this year, and I’ve only bought 2 physical albums because there isn’t really something I feel I must have (both are good and from portuguese bands).

      • GardensTale

        Still spinning that multiple times per day. It’s ridiculously good, and currently first in line on my AotY shortlist.

        • HeavyMetalHamster

          Absolutely.
          It’s not often that I hear a band and instantly buy their entire back catalog.
          Just really great songwriting and I love the retro 80’s vibe to the vocals.

  • ssorg

    Decent video… love the guitar playing on US national parks and that the zombie cowboy is riding the devil horse from Denver intern’l airport.

    • basenjibrian

      Google William Tappley and Denver Airport. Its all about the Satanic Phalluses!

  • gdffgdfgd

    The title is actually “Gunmen”, not “Gunman” (see the cover).
    I’ve always liked Orden Ogan and am really looking forward to this album. I also think the (almost-)title-track is amazing.
    A bit sad about the DR5 though, the youtube version of “Gunman” is DR7 and sounds nice (and it actually gets louder and not more fuzzy during the chorus) but I suspect it’ll sound worse on CD.

    • You are entirely correct. With the song as “Gunman” and the title as Gunmen, I mixed and matched unintentionally.

  • Vega Magnus

    Well, I’m a big fan of these guys so I’m getting the album anyway, but it is disappointing to see this score. I really like the first three tracks they released, so maybe I’ll end up liking the album as a whole too.

    I do have to disagree to some degree on Ghoultown though. I wouldn’t say their latest album sucked, but it is most definitely a novelty album that I won’t be coming back to much if at all. The gimmick wears off pretty quick.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Big fan here of Ravenhead. Sad to see the turn they took with this. I also like Ghoultown’s latest quite a bit. I guess I like novelty, which might explain my interest in Alestorm and Gloryhammer. But this… no.

  • Iain Gleasure

    Those last few intro sentences are some of the funniest, and to me, homo-erotic on the site in a long time.

    You also described Diabolus’ power metal band singing about the Reformation and its philosophy.

    • Don’t give him any ideas!

    • Nukenado

      Waiting for a black metal band to stop talking about Nietzche and start rambling about Plato. That would be cool.
      But it wouldn’t be very black metal than…

      • How about a black metal band singing about the wild west?

        • Nukenado

          It could be Zeal & Ardor Wild West Ver. , or it could suck.
          I’m betting the latter, considering the topic of this article. Call it “Hellrider” or something.

    • Mollusc

      “…easy to get behind, so one goes in hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.” had me mopping my moist upper lip. Has there been a Euro-power concept album based on Brokeback Mountain yet?

      • You guys are in rare form today.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          You didn’t intend any homo-eroticism when you wrote those lines, did you? Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

          • I didn’t, but it seems you folks like reading it in. Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course.

  • I liked the embedded track. It didn’t blow me away, but I’ll check out more. I do see the similarity to Hansi.

    Also, the band photo is classic. They can’t even help from giggling at themselves; you can see the smiles sneaking onto their faces.

    • Here’s Johnny

      really?! i mean you would think they would be 100% serious dressing as metal cowboys!

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Odin’s Organ fails to rise again.

    • why do you and SD keep saying organ? Is this a running gag?

      • tomasjacobi

        Considering the theme of the album in question I’d say it’s a riding gag.

        • Name’s Dalton

          More of a trot, really. Maybe at times a canter.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Yes. See Ravenhead review.

      • basenjibrian

        Its code for Meet Me at the Notell Motel

  • GardensTale

    The only Western themed metal I like are “The Dawn of Dying” and “The Legend and the Truth” by Dezperadoz. After that they leaned into their gimmick way too hard, bulldozer style. But those two albums are damn good. “Dawn” had Tom Angelripper on vocals, too.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Kronos recommended checking out Bird Eater, but I haven’t got around to it yet.

    • basenjibrian

      Fields of the Nephilim ruled.

  • Grymm

    This is the worst Western-themed metal I’ve heard since A Hero for the World… so in other words, it’s been a few weeks, hasn’t it? At least it’s not Redwest.

    Orden Ogan are a good band, normally.

    • welyyt

      It’s just odd to see these bands that think that Western-themed metal is a good idea to start with; Dezperadoz have some alright material, but the concept itself is really pushing the goof factor.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        It might be a good concept but it just hasn’t been done right yet…

    • [not a Dr]

      What about Civil War’s Tombstone?

  • mindbleach

    There’s been some… fascinating album art lately.

  • Thatguy

    What a terrible concept.

    And the horse on the album cover looks more macho than the dudes in the band photo.

    • Why must you hate power metal so? Did Helloween beat you up as a kid?

      • Thatguy

        Ha.

      • Nukenado

        Probably since Thatguy enjoys experimentaion from what I can gather from what conversations I’ve had, and power metal usually sounds s*mey to him?

  • Scourge

    I’m guessing power metal bands are moving on from Game of Thrones to Westworld. Who knew HBO had such an impact on metal?

    • I can’t wait for “Silicon Valley Metal”! :) The Middle Out Compression Trilolgy is going to be LIT!!!!!!

  • brutal_sushi

    I’m not hearing a 2.5 in the embedded track.

  • Levly

    I absolutely loved Ravenhead so this is a bummer, I hope I like it more than you do :s. At least my expectations will be in check.
    The “stop cowboy Power Metal” rant was very funny though.

  • rumour_control

    No.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra
  • Brent Johnson

    Ok, not as good as the last two but screw it, i’ll take this westernized power metal over the piratey coming out lately.

  • Ralph Plug

    That’s a shame, but expected. I quite enjoyed To the End and Ravenhead (a poor man’s Blind Guardian is a spot on description for this band, by the way), but was all but blown away by the two tracks I’ve heard so far.

  • Innit Bartender

    Another great band photo… and nobody noticed how these guys turned The Shadow into a cowboy?
    I think I’ll go back to Concrete Blonde’s “Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man” – not metal but badass as they come.

  • Here’s Johnny

    This gets 2.5 but Alestorm got 4.5? rigghht!

    I knew as soon as you said Gunman has a flat chorus that grows on you, that i could throw this review in the bin.

    ‘Gunman’ and ‘Fields of Sorrow’ are two of the most epic tracks(with immense choruses) I’ve heard in a long time. Far above anything on Ravenhead.

    The western metal thing is just pure fun, something this blog struggles with at times. If you watch the videos this band seem to have got it spot on with the theme.

    Another band destined for great things(Carach Angren), so here goes the hate.

    • “Fields of Sorrow” has a good chorus, but if you hear an “immense” chorus on “Gunman,” I don’t know what to tell you. Are you basing your opinion on those 2 songs alone or have you actually heard the album?

      And we obviously appreciate fun as we gave Alestorm a 4.5.

      • Here’s Johnny

        Fields of Sorrow chorus has some real emotion to it, i love that Gunman soaring chorus. This is not pop, why we discussing how catchy the choruses are anyway? They are incredible songs and way above the usual power metal pap. I’ve heard 4 songs so far and it sounds their best yet.

        If you had said those 2 were songs were fantastic but the rest isn’t as good, i woulda kept with you.

        I still think that 4.5 was satire :P

        Oh look there’s Jorn!

        • Are you really asking why we’re discussing catchiness in Euro-power? C’mon now.

          As for the album, it has good and bad spots but several tracks just aren’t particularly good so overall it gets a “mixed” score. It’s just shy of “good.”

          I didn’t review Alestorm, nor would I give it anything near a 4.5.

          • Here’s Johnny

            Yeah but it is not the main thing in metal. I think you are doing this band a bit of a disservice just going on about catchy choruses, as if this is Kylie Minogue or Aqua. The western theme was refreshing for me, being fed up of pirates.

            Well i should get it soon so i can hear the rest, i’m pretty sure i’m gonna love it though. The last album was really good but i get a feeling this is next level, which will get them on many tour packages. The previous fans will start to filter out, just like Carach Angren. Oh well.

          • I like this band. I gave their last 2 albums good reviews. This one isn’t as good IMHO and it’s not just about how catchy the choruses are. Not sure how I’m doing a disservice by giving my opinion. You just hate when critics disagree with your admittedly uninformed pre-release assumption of an album’s quality.

  • basenjibrian

    That purtty horse is giving me a come hither look!

  • I really wanted to dislike this, but damn, that embedded track is much better than I had thought it would be.

    Which reminds me, I’m going to be forming my own band, based out of Northwestern Indiana, and we’ll be a Viking Metal band. We’ll sing songs about fjords and Norse funerals.

  • The Western-themed metal certainly must die, and quickly. I think Gunmen is still a good album, though, but certainly not as good as Ravenhead. All the top-tier power metal this year seems to be falling victim to “following up massive albums and falling just a bit short” (Seven Kingdoms, Pyramaze, Orden Ogan). Thanks for the review!

  • Here’s Johnny

    you guys are just no fun, this is a great album and is gaining great reviews everywhere else. Steel D should be locked up, Jorn would be happy his restraining order ran out.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Idk……I really like this album.
    Subject matter aside it’s got some great tunes.
    I like the Rage on speed take.