Twisted Mist – Orbios Review

From the twisted mists of France rise Twisted Mist, of France. This duo has been around since 2017, under a variety of setups, delivering folk metal in two full-length offerings. Orbios, their third album, promises traditional instrumentation and blistering heavy metal in a convenient forty-minute package. I’ll save you the trouble of scrolling all the way down to the bottom of this review and let you know now that my feelings about Orbios are as mixed as mixed can be. As an album, it carries a lot of really good moments, several strengths, and a few weaknesses that culminate in a sort of tug-of-war over whether I like the thing, enjoy the thing, don’t mind the thing, or want to spin it again to reassess.

I’ll open, as the album itself does, with the positives. “Matir” is slow to start, layering flutes, acoustic guitars, clean vocals, and what I suspect is a hurdy gurdy on top of a ritualistic percussion before applying the metal. This is the formula that works best for Twisted Mist; their folk instrumentation is consistently powerful, memorable, and beautiful. When, as here and in “Equinoxe,” the electric instruments work to complement the folk lines, the result is impressive and exciting. Clean chants and flowing ideas create a central theme of folky grandeur, and there is a clear passion Twisted Mist have for their music that is never more evident than here.

On the other hand, the “metal” side of Orbios doesn’t land so well. “Finis Vitae” opens up with acoustic promise, and eventually morphs into a fairly traditional folk metal tune, evoking Eluveitie and maybe a little Ensiferium too. You know the drill – a snare-heavy drum beat blasts beneath chugging guitars, and atop it all, a flute plays the lead melody, juxtaposed against the electric goodness beneath. The problem here is twofold: firstly, the metal is far too loud. The guitars are all drive and no reverb, tons of mid and not enough bass, creating a very dry sound that doesn’t fit well with the lovely, lush folk instrumentation beneath. The second issue is that when Twisted Mist utilize power chords and riffs, they tend to fall back on a few generic tropes that add more in the way of arbitrary heaviness than ear-catching metal. Of course, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but because the guitars are often so loud, they distract from the more complex folk leanings. Instead of remembering “La Peste Soit de Ma Chair” for its awesome folk melodies, I mostly remember the jagged, distorted storm of guitar. Ill-defined and grating, the guitars make for a poor point of focus.

The vocals are a bit of a mixed bag as well, and again, the split between folk and metal stylings rears its head. Both clean and harsh vocals across the album are treated with a healthy dose of reverb, which gives the clean singing a chant-like power, and essentially robs the harsh vocals, which are hoarse and whispering to begin with, of any aggression they have. Throw these on top of the aforementioned guitar issues, and the metal elements of Orbios fall flat fairly consistently – just as the folk elements of Orbios are consistently great. The end result is that the album feels disjointed and superglued together in a way that doesn’t emphasize cohesion. And yet, I want to like it regardless, because when it works, it works so well. There’s an obvious talent and passion Twisted Mist have for their work, and a few stylistic and production choices go a long way towards undermining that.

This is a hard one to grade. On the one hand, I really do like it. On the other hand, it’s just so jarring. Twisted Mist have plenty of good ideas, tons of awesome talent, and a sound that I like, but the way they’ve realized it on Orbios isn’t working for me. Juxtaposition is usually a good way to foster appreciation, but when it gets away from you, your two opposing forces become just that: two opposing forces. So I really hope the next Twisted Mist album finds a little more harmony, because I do believe that it would be a very good album if it did.

Rating: 2.5/5.01
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 319 kbps mp3
Label: Music-Records
Websites: |
Released Worldwide: November 28th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Editor’s Note: The author intended this to be a 2.5, not a 3.0.
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