One of my favorite things about melodic death metal is its versatility. Alone, death metal is a style that I can appreciate but don’t often enjoy. So when you fuse it with aspects of other genres that I love, it’s easy for me to enjoy the result. Subsequently, this has long been one of my favorite genres of metal music. So much so that I’ve been hunting for some to review basically since the moment I got here. At long last, here they are, Orpheus Omega, who hails from Victoria, Australia, and Wear Your Sins, their fourth full-length effort. Now, I’m familiar with the whole “be careful what you wish for” thing, but we are talking about melodeath here. Does that really apply?
Yes. And no. There’s a lot going on here; Wear Your Sins has a pretty expansive sound, and it has both good and troublesome elements. Chris Themelco’s roars and rasps remind me of a throatier Mikael Stanne and are filled with all the pain and fury you need in good death metal. The album features plenty of strong riffing from rhythm guitarist Joao Goncalves, accentuated with background keys from Keswick Gallagher. That Orpheus Omega utilize piano keys more commonly than synth or orchestral sounds is a cool choice that works well. Powerful drumming from Matt Themelco, combined with Nathan Mesiti’s bass work, cements a heavy backdrop for the album. Finally, clean singing1 appears on a pretty consistent basis throughout Wear Your Sins, and it’s here that the problems begin to arise.
There is a strong emotional dissonance between Themelco’s pained roars and the comparatively flat, “radio-friendly” cleans. These often appear for choruses, serving little purpose save catchiness. Themelco’s harsh vocals convey anguish really well, so following them with a line like “Within myself I burn in pain; / Incinerate me” (“Incinerate”), sung in near-perfect monotone, is jarring, to say the least. They do succeed at being catchy — I’ve had the chorus to “When Hope Gives Way To Reason” stuck in my head since I started writing this — but they also tend to be the least interesting elements of the album. These parts get stuck in my head the same way radio hits get stuck in my head — by design, rather than by emotional resonance. When a song like “Swim In The Black” comes along, one that emphasizes and is built around its clean passages, the result is sadly forgettable.
The result of this dissonance is that the best songs on Wear Your Sins are the ones that use clean singing sparingly, or not at all. Opener “Lighthouse” substitutes clean singing with guest vocals from Niilo Sevänen (Insomnium), and the end result is fantastic. “Suffer” stands out for being lean, fast, and furious. These are the only two tracks to forego cleans, but, thankfully, they aren’t the only strong songs. The album’s eponymous closer brings everything together best, proving that there is a way to make this formula work well. A guest vocal spot from Anna Murphy (Cellar Darling, ex-Eluveitie) helps, but the cleans come across as suitably mournful, and this makes all the difference; “Wear Your Sins” is well-written, emotionally resonant, and heavy. The core sound on Wear Your Sins is really good melodeath, and every song has some measure of strength or power to it. Songs like these show that there is a way to make the formula work, even if the album as a whole doesn’t quite measure up.
Wear Your Sins is a good album with a few too many weak spots; if I were to describe it in a single word, I’d go with inconsistent.2 When this album hits its stride, it’s a blast, and I’m loving its best songs. Unfortunately, the rest simply don’t measure up, and this is a hard album to enjoy the full way through. I’ll be keeping an eye on Orpheus Omega in the future because it’s clear that they’ve got something good going for them, but this is sadly not a release I see myself returning to very often.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 185 kbps mp3
Label: EVP Recordings
Websites: orpheusomega.bandcamp.com | orpheusofficial.com | facebook.com/orpheusofficial
Releases Worldwide: March 29th, 2019