Written by: AP on 29/12/2019 13:56:24

When ORM rose from the ashes of the Danish blackened death metal group By the Patient in 2015, it was as though the four musicians who used to occupy the instrumental positions in their former quintet, had experienced an epiphany. All of the potential that had been seething just beneath the surface was released at last and distilled into a stupendous début, which seemed to herald the beginning of a new era for the metal scene in Denmark. The band has since admitted, however, that the end result did not match their vision completely, and as a listener, you could hear that in the record too — most notably in the lingering influence of death metal in many of the songs. It was thus imperative for ORM to have full control over the creation of this second offering “Ir”, and in order to realise this, the quartet opted to build their own studio in which it was written, recorded and mixed without any external meddling. Consequently, the album is totally devoid of compromises, which is easily noticed from the purer black metal sound deployed. It separates ORM from the past of the four musicians once and for all, and enables the rise of this, their magnum opus.

Before questioning how a sophomore album could possibly attain that honour — no one knows what masterpieces by ORM lie ahead, after all — I would implore you, the skeptic, to not only listen to, but indulge yourself with all that “Ir” has to offer. The inspirations behind it reach far and wide, with artists as diverse as Opeth, Rush, Wolves in the Throne Room, and even Fever Ray allegedly found amongst them, and all of these actually seem quite plausible. Both of the compositions that comprise “Ir” are anchored in the Cascadian black metal sound originating from northwestern USA, albeit with a distinctly Nordic melancholy characterising the melodies. But their arrangement is more reminiscent of progressive metal, both in terms of dynamics and the deployment of less traditional elements such as an Ennio Morricone-style trumpet soliloquy some 14 minutes into the first half, entitled “Klippens lyse hal”. It sounds like a bold idea, but if you listen to the underlying melody plucked out by guitarist and lone songwriter Simon Sonne Andersen in that same moment, it has an unmistakably Western sound begging to be accompanied by brass. It provides an unexpected, yet strangely natural intermezzo between two of the blackest and most intense passages on the album, the latter of which eventually starts to mingle with a tremolo lead that is almost… warm in tone.

Crashing cymbals and rolls of tom-tom by drummer Adam Schønemann ultimately bring the first half to a triumphant conclusion as the clock shows 23 minutes plus pebbles, before the heavily struck chords by Theis Wilmer Poulsen gradually evaporate and reveal a beautifully plaintive acoustic melody by Andersen, announcing the beginning of the second half of the record, “Bær solen ud”. The band is based in Copenhagen today, but their roots lie on the island of Bornholm, and this folkish segment is one of a myriad homages paid by the four musicians to their ancestral land. The stark grandeur of the island resonates in the epic, windblown instrumentation that soon cascades through the soundscape, with a lead as transcendental as those penned by Wolves in the Throne Room and rapidly pedalled drums that sound like the roar of oncoming thunder; while the lyricism — growled interchangeably (and sometimes in unison) by Andersen and Poulsen in their native tongue — explores some of the anecdotes, mythology and spirituality connected to the place. But like the first half of “Ir”, “Bær solen ud”, too, is an ever-changing amalgam of influences, full of twists and turns, and swelling and receding wantonly. Some 9 minutes in, it rains with psychedelia and, consciously or not, the band makes a nod toward Oranssi Pazuzu as the guitar melodies turn dissonant and are left to ring, while Andersen’s vocals take on a snarlier and decidedly eerier character. And once ORM emerge out the other end of this kaleidoscopic part, the proceedings are then slowed down for a flirt with doom metal, during which bassist Troels Cort Nielsen is given his own moment to shine.

There is a brief reprise of atmospheric black metal afterward, but ultimately ORM unchain themselves from the genre completely, surprising the listener and challenging their fans with a finale of cinematic post-rock not unlike Light Bearer that starts just after the 17-minute mark. It is calm and serene, and lasts for a long time, patiently increasing the volume and introducing one layer after another to build a monolith of a crescendo as the final masterstroke needed to cement “Ir” as one of this year’s best metal albums not just in Denmark, but indeed overall. Its predecessor was certainly a tantalising effort in its own right, but it pales in comparison to the transcendence of this latest creation by ORM, which is instantly rendered a quintessential part of any serious black metal connoisseur’s record collection. Perhaps the only truly ‘negative’ thing one can say about “Ir”, then, is that it sets an impossibly high standard to which an eventual third studio album from ORM must adhere… but considering the skill of composition and musicianship on display here, it would not surprise me either, if their masterpiece is still to come.


Download: Klippens lyse hal, Bær solen ud
For the fans of: Agalloch, Panopticon, Wolves in the Throne Room
Listen: Facebook

Release date 30.08.2019

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