Orchid – Capricorn (2011)

Orchid_Capricorn4 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.

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Landskap – II (2014)

Landskap_24 out of 5 Stars!

Like the group’s other two albums, Landskap’s sophomore release shows that this U.K. band is a rather unique animal on today’s music scene. Imagine what would have happened had The Doors gone Heavy Prog/Heavy Psych with more than a touch of Doom Metal and Stoner Rock included, with even a few jazzy rhythms sneaking in, and that’s what this act brings to the table.

Generally, on tracks such as “Leave It All Behind,” “Through the Ash,” “South of No North,” and “Tomorrow’s Ghost,” the music is delightfully dark and creepy, with growling Hammond organ and dreamy electric piano ala “Riders on the Storm,” grooving and often Sabbath-tinged guitar riffs, and a Jim Morrison soundalike behind the microphone.

Landskap would likely appeal to fans of other Retro-Rock bands such as D’Accord, Hypnos 69, Siena Root, Witchwood, etc. I find myself being drawn to this album more and more as the months pass by, continually reveling in the eerie yet driving atmospheres and the rock-solid performances by each musician.

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Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)

Candlemass_Epicus4 out of 5 Stars!

For me, Black Sabbath will always remain the epitome of the term “Heavy Metal,” so when another band appears on the scene that clearly attempts to replicate the Sabbath sound/style, I typically sit up and take notice.

Sweden’s Candlemass is one of those groups that caught my interest back in the ’80s, and I’ve enjoyed many of the band’s releases through the decades. The debut album, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, the only collection to feature the band’s original vocalist, is an album I still play periodically due to the dark and gloomy “Sabbathy” atmosphere, the “Iommi-esque” guitar tones and ominous riffs, and the powerful rhythm section.

And while this particular vocalist doesn’t replicate any of the long string of singers to have fronted Black Sabbath through the years, his voice is nevertheless appropriate for the genre and Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, by and large, with tracks such as “Demon’s Gate,” “A Sorcerer’s Pledge,” “Black Stone Wielder,” and “Solitude” included, comes eerily close to duplicating the style of early Sabbath.

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Veni Domine – Fall Babylon Fall (1992)

VeniDomine_FallBabylon3.5 out of 5 Stars!

To be honest, the first time I heard this debut album from Swedish band Veni Domine, I’d thought someone had slipped on a new album from Queensryche, seeing as how Fredrik Ohlsson’s vocals had a definite Geoff Tate flair, with the same wide range, vibrato, and style of delivery. Be that as it may, the band also liberally incorporated Queensryche’s progressive-tinged metal sound into its music, along with obvious influences from groups such as Black Sabbath to Demon to Candlemass to Iron Maiden, only with the doomy and heavily symphonic atmospheres and dramatic song arrangements acting as a backdrop for Christian lyrics.

And although Fall Babylon Fall offered nothing truly innovative in the world of Heavy Metal, the level of musicianship, creativity, and songwriting prowess—especially on the twenty-one-minute epic “The Chronicle of the Seven Seals,” for example—did make for an enjoyable debut nonetheless.

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