posted on 4/2011 By:
Note: Those who've wandered into this room in hopes of discussing the Orchid of Massachusetts origin (1997-2002), you'll find a door down the hall clearly marked Screamoholics Anonymous that will be much more suited for discussing your issues. This particular room is actually intended for a Doomoholics Unanimous meeting and this evening's discussion of the Bay Area version of the band bearing the same name…
Back in late 2002, the Earl of Void (Jari Pohjonen of Reverend Bizarre fame) penned a three-part proclamation expounding the origins and credo of doom metal, fittingly titled "A Doom Metal Manifesto." What stuck with me the most within those words was -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- the subject of how "bands such as Witchfinder General, Count Raven, Iron Man, etc. were all criticized in their time for being uninventive Black Sabbath copycats, when it was exactly this element that stood as those bands' key strength to doomsayers." To continue, Jari brought to light the notion that traditional doom fans are perhaps more akin to classical and folk music aficionados in that we seem more willing to celebrate artists today who remain steadfast in reinterpreting the root works because, to put it simply, we love it.
So, just as there are piles of people out there getting a shine out of some contemporary deciphering of an antique Lead Belly tune, or a current orchestra's recent interpretation of Rachmaninoff's Suite No.2, doom freaks also bless the early 70s Ozzy-era Sabbath assimilation put forth by San Francisco's Orchid. Does it bother us that "Black Funeral" sounds as if it could've been called "Hand of Doom (Reprise)"? Or that the album's dark closer "Albatross" sounds like a new take on "Planet Caravan"? Nope. And to be perfectly frank, a lot of folks have been spinning those early Sabbath classics for well-over two decades now, so while the albums will always remain indelible essentials, it's actually quite nice to hear -that sound- smartly reinterpreted by a band like Orchid today.
And do it smartly Orchid certainly does. This follow-up to 2009's equally enjoyable Through the Devil's Doorway EP once again adopts that wonderfully warm, fuzzy early 70s production that allows all the players equal time under the spotlight. From the heavy-handed punch of the Ward-studied rhythms (including occasional cowbell) to the bubbling and occasional bounce of the Geezer'd bass to the slightly nasally and cloudy "Prince of Darkness" vocals to the heavily Iommi'd riffs and silvery leads: all of it is tattooed up and down Capricorn's sleeves from the moment the record starts to the second it closes out.
I do feel the band strikes the iron hardest when the focus leans heavier on a galloping stride emphasizing groove, so the strongest moments of Capricorn flash in its first half with the more brassy strut of the fantastic opener "Eyes Behind the Wall" and the superbly infectious title-cut and "Masters of it All". But even the album's moodier bits like "Electric Father" throw down enough skillful playing that you'd never think of skipping a tune amongst the Capricorn bunch. The band should also likely be commended and flogged respectively for penning one of the years nastiest riffs at the onset of "Down into the Earth", only to let it quickly become smothered and only occasionally poke out for the remainder of the tune; a grimy riff like that ought to swagger openly for the full 6+ minutes.
I suppose time will tell if this young band eventually tires of the Sabbath comparisons and ultimately opts for a different path to wander in the future. Again, like their predecessors in Witchfinder General, Count Raven, Iron Man, etc., I certainly don't feel Orchid comes across as an "uninventive Sabbath copycat." Material such as this and their previous EP soundly establish the fact that these dudes have the necessary chops to succeed in delivering a fresh take on a style and sound a lot of metal fans have coursing through their veins, so to me, that's something worthy of celebration. And if you're of a similar mind and haven't yet picked up on Orchid, Capricorn is very worthy of your attention.
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