Need – Orvam: A Song For Home
Need – Orvam: A Song For Home (2014)
Reviewed by Mark Nagy
Here’s a little game to start this review off. If you haven’t already, google “Need Orvam Reviews” and make a list of all the bands that various critics compare their sound to. Try to take note of the genres mentioned too, and when you get back, tell me if you have any idea what Need’s new album, Orvam: A Song For Home actually sounds like. I’ll spare adding to that list, as I’ve really got no clue who I would compare this band with. If that sounds like the least helpful description to open a review with ever, I offer my sincerest apologies, but I feel that I must bring your attention to this wonderful album, even if my writing prowess fails to give you an apt description.
At the very least, I can tell you that Need plays a very subtle brand of progressive metal. It makes heavy use of both guitars and keyboards, though neither are emphasized in the mix as strongly as the distinct, even harrowing voice of lead singer Jon V. To call Need an ‘atmospheric’ band wouldn’t do justice to the active, skilled, and engaging instrumental performances, but man do they know how to set a mood.
Such understatement pays off though, and the sound of the album is thoroughly unique. I’m not sure I’d associate it with the newer post-progressive metal movement, because while there is a big emphasis on music textures and unique sounds, the guitars are still primarily melodic. If I were to hazard a comparison, and a loose one at best, I would draw a line to Votum’s Harvest Moon from 2013, except that the ethos throughout the album is much colder, and, as reflected in the album’s striking artwork, empty in such a way that evokes a strange sort of beauty.
To properly call attention to the… remarkable success of this record, I draw your attention to the penultimate track: “Hotel Oniro”. This track is almost entirely spoken word, and quite musically sparse. This is typically an automatic skip for me. I’ve got a well-publicized hatred of voice-overs in prog, but the conversation of “Hotel Oniro” is both terribly sad and remarkably poignant. It’s a perfect snapshot of the emotional resonance that reverberates through the whole album. Bravo Need, you’ve accomplished what I’ve often called next to impossible.
However, while the band does pull off, in masterful fashion, the ever-challenging ‘voiceover track’, it’s not universally successful in its mission. The final track, the 18 minute title track “Orvam”, catapults the listener into a world of absolute despair. Digging deep to the point of release and achieving peace. The musical transition is startling, and the lyrical shift satisfying. So, when, after a lengthy instrumental, the song returns to the dramatic refrain ridden with despair, I’m left confused. It’s a small knock on an otherwise remarkable journey, but on top of the already sparse collection of melodies populating the back half of the song, it ends the album on something of an underwhelming note.
That being said, while the journey isn’t perfect, there are some absolutely jaw dropping stops along the way. Both the opener “Lifeknot” and “Mother Madness” do an admirable job of intersecting the album’s personal atmosphere with some really awesome melodies. In the case of “Mother Madness”, this even approaches catchy. Orvam: A Song For Home is thoroughly refreshing. Not being able to easily compare it to a lot of contemporary progressive metal is actually a really nice reprieve, especially because Need executes so well.
4.25 // 5