REVIEW: ORDEN OGAN – “Gunmen”
Having a soft spot for power metal, knowing that these guys were releasing a new effort this year made me really happy. After the monstrous ‘Ravenhead’ – best album of the genre in 2015 for me – it became clear that Sebastian “Seeb” Levermann (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Tobias Kersting (guitars), Niels Löffler (bass, ex-Stormblade, ex-Sardonic) and Dirk Meyer-Berhorn (drums) – commonly known to be the members of the “Order of Fear”, or simply Orden Ogan – were not kidding around in embracing their role of new keepers of the German power metal grail. With more than 20 years of activity, Seeb and crew are growing slowly and steady in the ranks of the Teutonic scene and aim to conquer the Wild West in this new album, which will come out on July 7th via AFM Records.
Don’t expect, however, a spaghetti western or silly takes on the attractive – yet ludicrous and widely inaccurate – stories of American robbers, anti-heroes, sheriffs and cowboys. ‘Gunmen’ goes the other way around and offers a unique and interesting view on the matter, illustrating a dark and sorrowful atmosphere that ends up working wonders in the final product. The album features ten hard hitting, yet melodic songs that don’t actually intertwine together to form one big conceptual work, but rather each of them tell short stories themselves.
“Gunman” serves as the introductory song to an overwhelming and fantastic world created by the Germans, and while not being entirely bombastic and opulent, has more than enough pompousness to capture an epic essence that works wonders as an opener. With classic Orden Ogan choirs and chorus’ symphonies, as well as blasting and galloping riffs, the track quickly dispatches you to the no-man’s land that is home to the gunman. Sworn to bring salvation by vengeance, he will find you wherever you are.
The anthemic and intense “Fields of Sorrow” changes the pace and delivers an emotional story through mid-tempo verses full of virtuous riffs, great performance by Seeb and marksman precision by the kitchen with Meyer-Berhorn and Löffler. I give special attention here to the highly emotional and symphonic chorus, this time illustrating a husband’s loss through blood and tears, wondering if his wife will still love him in the kingdom of the dead.
Follow-up “Forlorn and Forsaken” keeps up the pace with galloping leads and a more pumped-up chorus, but while it looks more like a straight-forward power metal track, it’s not without emotional charge. “Vampire in Ghost Town” is a weird metaphor for a guy who’s dating the wrong chick and all his friends leave him by himself, making him feel responsible for draining their energy, only to learn that it’s the girl that is truly to blame for tearing them apart. Strangely enough, the lyrics actually work out and the instrumental bit is toned down to form a darker, heavier atmosphere with stronger riffs and – of course – ghostly choirs in the background, which add some cool vibes. The choirs in the album, for that matter, are particularly stellar this time with several friends of the band helping out with the backing vocals, which include some heavy-hitters of the scene such as Klaus Dirks of Mob Rules.
“Come With Me to the Other Side” features Liv Kristine (solo, ex-Leaves’ Eyes) and offer a more romantic and gothic feel to the album. While it plays as a love song, it’s not a ballad; instead, it offers double-pedal drumming and chugging leads, with some mid-to fast-tempo verses. “Down Here (Wanted: Dead or Alive) and “One Last Chance”, though, don’t strike as hard as the others nor offer something different lyric or performance-wise, but are, nevertheless, good and solid tunes.
The stomping “Ashen Rain” adds some modernity to the mix with some pedal changes and pounding drumming, while being constructed as a somewhat slow opus. “The Face of Silence” and closer “Finis Coronat Opus” serve as the epic bits and deliver to the promise: grand and beautifully crafted, both are great examples of top-notch songwriting and provide a welcomed balance between the melodic, the heavy and the opulent. The latter one, in fact, couldn’t be named better, as “the end crowns the work”. Seeb was in charge of producing the effort – as it is common with their works – and Andreas Marshall provided the cover art, so you know it kicks ass.
Orden Ogan prove why they are considered one of the best power metal acts to emerge in the past twenty years, and ‘Gunmen’ undoubtedly tops their creative output so far. Actually all of the songs display an immensely high quality level and contribute in some way to the experience, being it with mighty, catchy choruses, creativity or good levels of diversity. “The Face of Silence” may have the simplest, but best phrase to illustrate what the Germans represent to the power metal scene today: “We are, we are, we are, we are the future” Yes you are, Orden Ogan…yes you are.