Orden Ogan – To The End
With delay after delay Orden Ogan really made us wait to the end for, well, To The End. Yes, it’s going to be one of those “clever” reviews. But now in February, I mean, April, I mean, October the new album will finally be released. At least that’s what they tell me. I’ll believe it when I’m cradling it in my sleep. Ever since we heard half a snippet of a badly recorded live track, some of our staff have been speculating about this record’s chances to be the best 2012 has to offer. My verdict is in, and it’s a “no”, which does not mean To The End isn’t a lot of frozen fun.
Orden Ogan is one of a very select group of bands which consistently makes the obligatory instrumental intro track (the neglect of which is punishable by power metal death) into something special. “The Frozen Few” is no exception, harmonizing and amplifying a single guitar lead into a glorious mood-setting prelude. The box set of this album comes with a scarf and snow globe (don’t ask), and especially the former may come in handy here. Delivering on the cover art and the song titles, To The End brings winter to your household with the same mixture of melancholy and might we’ve heard on Vale and Easton Hope. Now that I think of it, they really should have equipped the fans with matches or a flamethrower.
The arctic amusement continues with the title track and its galloping riffs galore, boasting lots of shout-aloud passages, and an icecapper of a chorus (oh yeah). “The Things We Believe In” sounds like the anthem of the frozen few, and I guess this time the story revolves around a bunch of people frozen in ice. Kind of like Han Solo. Or Captain America! Despite the downside of being a human popsicle, “The Things We Believe In” is an uplifting tune which will certainly warm the hearts of many a concertgoer this fall. Same goes for “Land Of The Dead” and its mantra of “We are life – less, pale – and – numb. We – are – all the same now!”
Three tracks in it’s clear Orden Ogan went for a safer sound, heavier guitars and faster rhythms. I was among those expecting another slightly symphonic, progressive power metal masterpiece, but To The End is a less challenging, more easy-listening beast. Once you get over that, it is very enjoyable, but something tells me the band may not be operating at their full potential here. Which is nothing but a compliment, really. In any case, the trend continues with the familiar “Till The Stars Cry Out” and the bouncy “Dying Paradise”, which is their most direct song since “Winds Of Vale”. Standouts are the frostbitten ballad “The Ice Kings”, proving these guys can still do wistful and wonderful like few others can, and the dark chugging of “This World Of Ice”, the album’s most impenetrable song.
Also included are two tracks from the band’s demo days, “Mystic Symphony” and “Angels War”. The former is fine enough, and in tune with the more recent material. The latter is the real treat, though, and for some reason the press release ignored that it was already included on the band’s debut “Testimonium A.D.”, which isn’t even listed in the discography. AFM seems to be suffering from reverse Rage-itis, not counting existing albums instead of counting non-existent ones (21 still haunts my numerical nightmares). I’ve known “Angels War” and its lack of an apostrope for quite a while now, and it’s gotten a strong makeover, although it’s a tad obvious it stems from an earlier stage of Orden Ogan’s career. “Take This Life” closes the album, and it’s reminiscent of the haunting “Requiem” from Easton Hope.
To The End may be somewhat of a regression for Orden Ogan, but thanks to an ace production job and the usual display of melodic and atmospheric brilliance, it should still please fans of the band, and probably reel in some new ones. Perhaps they can push further on the next one, and reach the heights of Easton Hope once more, but for now I am content I’ve waited to the end. Straight to the end.
Arno’s rating: 4.0 out of 5