Few metal scenes are as overcrowded as that of the European power metal style, but occasionally a band comes along that stands out from the crowd of generic Helloween and Hammerfall impersonators. Orden Ogan are one such band. Sporting midrange, often menacing and broody vocals, and a thick and meaty production that emphasizes low-end sounds, these German metallers don’t sound quite like any other band out there. The most common comparison is with Blind Guardian, mostly due to the plethora of layers on the vocal choruses and the occasional European folk tinges. However, Orden Ogan are a band that manages to accomplish the rare feat of paying tribute to their influences without aping them, and here on their fifth full-length offering Ravenhead, we find them in top form of blistering modern power metal assault.
Orden Ogan are probably most notable for their choruses, which contain the lavishly multi-tracked vocal choral lines pioneered by Queen and perfected by Blind Guardian. This is both a blessing and a curse. The sound itself creates to a grand and majestic air--”epic” would be the term typically associated with this sound--that has the capability to suck you in and refuse to let go with its level of catchiness. Make no mistake: songs like “F.E.V.E.R.” and “Evil Lies in Every Man” will drill their way into your skull and rebuff any efforts to dislodge them.
The flip side of this is the tendency to fall into generic “flower metal” territory during the choruses. With many tracks, this is often in stark contrast the the rest of the song. For example, on “Deaf Among the Blind” and “The Lake,” neck-breaking riffs and finger-searing solos transition into ho-hum generic power metal choruses that lend nothing to the song and are forgotten the instant the song ends.
Herein lies the biggest issue with Orden Ogan as a band (and by extension, Ravenhead as an album): their wild inconsistency. While songs like “Evil Lies in Every Man” and the title track are masterpieces of metal composition, featuring crushing riffs, catchy choruses, and intriguing song structures, songs like “A Reason to Give” and “Sorrow is Your Tale” are extremely mediocre and instantly forgotten. Even after several listen-throughs, I cannot recall a single moment of note from either of those songs.
The worst offender is the closing track, “Too Soon.” A generic power metal ballad if there ever was one, it meanders around aimlessly and seems to serve no purpose whatsoever. There is no point or emphatic climax reached on this song (or on the other slow song, “A Reason to Give”), and singer Sebastian Leverman lacks the charisma to pull off these tracks the way a more talented vocalist like Russell Allen or Eric Adams might have been able to. Someone needs to tell these guys that you can’t sing softly to distant drums and keyboards for four minutes and call it a song.
That said, when Orden Ogan are good, they are REALLY good. Whether it is the upbeat energy of “Evil Lies in Every Man,” the fire-breathing solo on “The Lake,” or the whiplash-inducing riffs on “Deaf Among the Blind,” Ravenhead has a ton to offer to listeners and is among the best albums so far this year. Check it out!
OVERALL RATING: 8/10
TOP TRACKS: “Evil Lies in Every Man” “F.E.V.E.R.”