Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Black Orchid-Wake


Hailing from Flagstaff, Arizona, which might just make them the most successful heavy metal band to come out of that city (Google sure as hell didn't bring up that many suggestions/names to begin with, but the few suggestions they did have placed Black Orchid up near the top), this 4-piece band first saw the light of day in early 2002. Since then Black Orchid (who are not to be confused with the Gothic metal band of the same name that hails from Adelaide, South Australia) has seen it's fair share of shake-ups with the current line-up featuring Matt Babcock on vocals and bass, Ryan Smith and Steven Haigh on guitars and Stephen Brannen on drums. The group's upcoming album "Wake" has the distinction of being Black Orchid's fifth independent release! That's the true sign of a D.I.Y. heavy metal band although it must be noted that it's not a lack of talent on the part of Black Orchid that has kept them from being scooped up being some record label, indie or major. I'm actually having a hard time figuring that one out (the band still being unsigned and all), but I've been at this long enough to know that when it comes to the music industry the only thing that you can truly count on is the fact that for every good unsigned band that comes along there will always be a dozen plus dreadfully awful signed bands! Let's not dwell on that sad reality though. Instead let's do a quick run down on Black Orchid's back catalog. There has been demos of course, but (as far as full-length albums go) it was after a self-titled debut that the band would release "Confidence In Death". That would be followed by a third album, "Where This Life is Leading", which was produced, engineered and mastered by Whitechapel's Ben Harclerode! Incidentally, Whitechapel is just one of many bands that could be sued to help describe Black Orchid's sound, but we'll get to that part a little further on down. With their new album "Wake", which is due for release on Friday September 6th, Black Orchid sounds more like a younger, more energized and down right hungry band then one that has been going at it for 11 years! That right there say's quite a bit about this bunch as their skilled delivery is perfectly matched by their overall drive. Musically this is a band that relies on full blown RAGE just about as much as they do these subtle, and down-right beautiful, melodic interludes! That much can be ascertained by the group's first single, "Good Intentions", which is streaming here: http://metalholic.com/black-orchid-premieres-good-intentions-from-upcoming-new-album/ . If you've never heard this bunch before then that single is a good place to start. Of course "Good Intentions" is only one track. As for the rest of this album? Influences would seem to run along these lines (all of which were picked up from their ReverbNation page): Machine Head, Soulfly, Pantera, Mudvayne and Hatebreed. All of those bands do slide in (as far as influences go), but then again I picked up on this Killswitch Engage (without the metalcore breakdones) vibe, some Merauder, the previously mentioned Whitechapel (to be fair Black Orchid was around before Whitechapel) and, in regards to backing vocals only (and this was only occasionally folks!), Rage Against The Machine! Taken as a whole this is an album that combines melodic death metal, metalcore, deathcore, thrash, regular heavy metal and modern metal into a (thanks to having 11 years to hone their style!) distinct sound that can only be described as sounding like Arizona's Black Orchid! And thanks to the album's emotionally volatile nature it's also a release that is bound to hit rather close to home for more than a few metalheads. Overall "Wake" feels emotionally raw, honest and, when it comes right down to both it's approach and delivery, brutal. This is one of those rare moments where you can tell that a band has dug deep inside to pull off  an album where their honesty can bleed for all to see. Still though the band, or at least their front-man, is able to sum it all up better so we'll close this review by getting everything straight from the source. As vocalist Matt Babcock puts it (in regards to the overall theme of the new album): "Wake reflects a very difficult time in our lives. It expresses the challenges and hardships we have survived over the past few years. In addition to being brutally honest and introspective, Wake is extremely well recorded and proves that Black Orchid will never move in any other direction than forward. After 11 years of perseverance this album leaves Black Orchid proud, humble, and as hungry as ever."

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