|Review: Orden Ogan - Easton Hope|
Label: AFM Records
Year released: 2010
Genre: Progressive Power Metal
Review online: November 16, 2015
Reviewed by: Edward T. Head
Rated 4.47/5 (89.39%) (49 Votes)
Epic. Grandiose. Emotional. Powerful. Magical.
Five words which aptly describe one of Metal's all-time greats, the mighty Blind Guardian. Now, I sit before you, ready to present the first, true, spiritual successor to the Blind Guardian throne, Orden Ogan. Unlike the nearly plagiaristic stylings of Savage Circus (still a great band, nonetheless), Orden Ogan are less like Blind Guardian in sound, but much more so in feeling. Allow me to explain.
While both bands inhabit the Power Metal field, both sound like no other band – throwing conventions out the window, in favor of a do-what-we-want attitude. Both bands are inherently progressive in nature, without actually operating in the "Progressive Metal" genre. Likewise, both are quite adept at eschewing Metal's boundaries by simply being unafraid to explore non-Metal elements (most notably Folk music, but in Orden Ogan's case, also many modern elements), while never actually straying outside the confines of the genre. It's amazing then that the legendary band, and the new guys in town, can have so much in common, yet not sound like one another – hence the idea of "true, spiritual successor". But enough about comparisons – let's move on to Orden Ogan's opus, Easton Hope.
Coming just two years after 2008's "Vale", Easton Hope improves on Orden Ogan's already impressive sound in nearly every area. Where "Vale" had a more down-to-earth feel, with an almost Pop-like sensibility at times (think Mechanical Poet, who you need to check out, if you aren't familiar), Easton Hope has taken everything and turned it up a notch or 10 (to 11, perhaps?). The arrangements are grander, the choruses more epic and memorable, and the sound absolutely huge. The band employed a multi-part choir for most of the choruses, as well as making use of the services of ex- Blind Guardian (there they are again) skinsman, Thomen Stauch, and ex-Running Wild guitarist, Majk Moti (on the quite appropriately titled,"We Are Pirates!").
Easton Hope delivers the story of town brought to ruin and tragedy – by means you'll have to discover for yourself – so the subject matter is of a darker nature then the average Power Metal album. The first proper track, "Nobody Leaves", sets the stage for the dark tale, beginning with aggressive and modern-tinged guitars, before double bass couples with Sebastian Levermann's vocals to lead the first verse into the epic choral chorus. From there, the whole album is a collage of contrasts – from light to dark, soft to loud, fast to slow, and so on. In one song, Orden Ogan quickly makes it clear that they have a very strong command of dynamics, insuring that despite the album's playing time eclipsing the one-hour mark, it never gets tiresome.
From there, the album heads into "Goodbye", with Levermann's verse vocals sounding like disturbed cries from a desperate man, before leading into the dark trifecta of the title track, "Welcome Liberty", and "All These Dark Years". "Nothing Remains" shines some light back into the album, before the lone ballad, "Requiem", shows the band at its most heart-wrenching. Next up is the album's "single", if you will, in "We Are Pirates!". Definitely the most upbeat track on the album, the chorus will have you swigging rum in no time. Finishing out "Easton Hope" are "The Black Heart" and "Of Downfall And Decline", which are no happier than the titles suggest. Happy, "Flower" Metal this is not, but Orden Ogan do a wonderful job at keeping the fanfare-type choruses going strong, and making each passing moment as memorable as the last. However, these are also intricate songs, so multiple listens are mandatory.
Easton Hope deserves the highest recommendation to all Power Metal fans, and has enough going to appeal to non-genre fans who are willing to give it a listen. Orden Ogan are an amazing young band with (hopefully) a long future ahead of them, as well as a perfect reminder that in this age of cookie-cutter bands, there are still those out there walking their own path.
(Review originally written in 2010)
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