Orden Ogan has a name that greatly irritates me, but they’ve been a positive force in Euro-power over the years with semi classics like Vale, Easton Hope and the very respectable To The End. What I always enjoyed about them was how effectively they could fuse the vintage sounds of countrymen Rage and Blind Guardian into something enjoyable and at least partially unique. The Blind Guardian love continues to grow and prosper on Ravenhead and that means mountains of polished, memorable power metal anthems, as bombastic as all get out, yet supplying real metallic heft to avoid a fruity aftertaste. The songwriting is stronger and more consistent than last time and the band sounds right in the center of their comfort zone, rocking the kind of muscular power tunes they obviously grew up adoring. Add in some timely guest vocals and maybe, just maybe I’ve been too hard on the stupid ass band name after all.
The opening instrumental sets the proper foundation for the big, burly push of the title track and its typically over-the-top, righteously fist-pumping fare. It’s as catchy as poison ivy, but “F.E.V.E.R” is even better with a ridiculously anthemic chorus you’ll be hard pressed to avoid singing in supermarkets, malls and office cubicles. The big, heavy riffing takes it well outside the realm of typical Euro-power and it’s all the better for that, and when bagpipes join the fray, it creates the perfect maelstrom of grandiose bombast. The rest of Ravenhead delivers the same high quality goodies, with some tunes landing more in the Rage camp, like “The Lake” and “Evil Lies in Every Man,” but the bulk being far more blind than angry.
And some of these songs sound really big, like “Here at the End of the World,” where they’re joined by Chris Boltendahl of Grave Digger for a ginormous dose of Germanic metal, heavy on the heavy and light on the Euro-power. “Deaf Among the Blind” is lovingly overblown Blind Guardian worship and “Sorrow is Your Tale” is more of the same with a nice appearance from Joachim Cans of Hammerfall. The writing is consistently good and even softer stuff like “A Reason to Give” avoids the cheese sweats. This is especially apparent on closer “Ravenhead Too Soon,” which is a wickedly effective dose of dark balladry with an ominous vibe.
And that’s a strength of Orden Ogan; the darker edge they give their version of power metal. This isn’t your father’s Gamma Ray or your mother’s Freedom’s Call. This is much more in-your-face, forbidding and gritty. Some of the material even reminds me of Turisas and that’s certainly a welcome development. The songs are all of manageable length and never outstay their welcome and the album is the perfect length at 48 minutes. It hits you and then ends, leaving you wanting more.
Vocally, Seeb Levermann continues to channel both Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian) and Peavy Wagner (Rage) and at times it’s hard to believe you aren’t listening to one of those bands. He does the material proud and I find myself liking his voice more with each release. This may also be the best all around outing guitar-wise for Seeb and Tobin Kersting as they pull out one memorable harmony and solo after another, and though the riffs are often simple and heavy, they work well in the context of the songs and supply all the power required.
The only downside on an otherwise very enjoyable album is the production, which is thick as a brick. At DR5, it’s brickwalled and utterly without nuances. While the thickness of the guitar sound gives it a whole lot of power, at times even approaching a Fear Factory level of industrial crushery, it has too much of that Sabaton “wall of sound” effect and it can get tiring.
This is an improvement from To The End (except for those druid outfits in the promos), much heavier and a very easy album to like. Though it’s way too early in the year to start speculating on the crop of power metal ahead, I feel fairly safe saying this will be one of the genre’s better moments. As you wait for the new Blind Guardian platter, these guys definitely have what it takes to keep you busy and entertained. Orden this with confidence.