4 out of 5 Stars!
Several years ago, I had lamented the fact that I had a fierce craving to hear additional artists that “worshiped at the altar of Black Sabbath” but I didn’t quite know where to turn. Thankfully, several friends supplied me with recommendations, and among the list was a new (or newer) San Francisco band that went by the moniker of Orchid. Well, since one early Sabbath album (Master of Reality) had a short instrumental with the same name, I figured this band might be a good place to start my investigation. And man, did that logic ever pay off…in spades.
My journey of discovery began with finding a copy of Through the Devil’s Doorway, the band’s four-track EP from 2009, where Orchid not only delivered the tunes in a style replicating early Black Sabbath (I would liken the sound to albums from Paranoid through Vol. 4, prior to Sabbath becoming more experimental), but also the lead vocalist went so far as to nearly copy the vocal nuances of Ozzy Osbourne. Now, granted, I was never a huge fan of Osbourne’s, his nasally voice often rubbing me the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong, I could tolerate him well enough and I adore many of the albums on which he appeared—I mean, Black Sabbath were the gods of Metal, as far as I was concerned—but he was never my favorite singer in the universe due to the thin and often whiny nature of his voice. Now, although Orchid’s Theo Mindell does have a similar delivery style and possesses a set of pipes that can occasionally (and eerily) mimic Osbourne’s, his timbre is thankfully much fuller, rounder, more forceful, not to mention a tad gruffer, which happily eliminates any and all “Osbourne annoyance factor” in my ears.
Therefore, being generally impressed with the EP, I immediately dove headlong into the band’s 2011 full-length debut album Capricorn, praying the band had continued along the same musical pathway. And once again, from the opening track “Eyes Behind the Wall” onward, the classic Sabbath sound/style is wonderfully replicated, probably more so than most other groups considered “Sabbath tribute” acts. (Indeed, I’ll admit that I enjoy Orchid’s material even more so than the most recent Sabbath “reunion” recordings themselves.) For me, on Capricorn, the dark, dastardly, and doomy guitar riffs steal the show, proving highly enjoyable and occasionally memorable, especially on the aforesaid tune plus “Electric Father,” “Black Funeral,” “He Who Walks Alone,” “Masters of It All,” and “Cosmonaut of Three.” Actually, every single tune has something special going for it.
But is it unique? Heck no, and frankly, I don’t care. The closing ballad, “Albatross,” is an outward attempt to fashion another “Planet Caravan” (from Black Sabbath’s Paranoid) while the album’s title track contains an opening riff that instantly brought to mind “Hole in the Sky” (Sabotage). I could go on and on citing further comparisons, but I won’t bother. The band doesn’t even attempt to mask its influences, yet Orchid in no way perfectly clones or plagiarizes Sabbath either, even though sections of additional tracks, whether it be the main riffs or the rhythms or the solos or the vocal melodies or even the tone of the instruments, periodically send shivers of déjà vu up my spine. And I love every second of it. Now it’s just a matter of me accumulating the band’s subsequent releases so I can continue to revel in the sound/style I’ve adored since my teenaged years.
So for Black Sabbath lovers who don’t mind a contemporary band attempting to recreate the sound and style of its idols from the past, then you might want to investigate Orchid. I certainly have no problem with this “tribute” approach to current music, no matter the genre or the band in question, as long as the obvious tribute is done correctly and with high reverence. And as far as I can see (or hear), the talented members of Orchid have indeed done everything correctly, and with unabashed and untainted respect for the granddaddies of Heavy Metal dripping from every doom-laden note.