Monday, January 17, 2011


An experiment in the penultimate form of black metal expressionism, Orrery's first and only album seeks to tap into the dark rich blood running through the vein of atmosphere by issuing one of very few all instrumental BM albums. In theory this idea should work, and it should be a resounding success, as the available templates within the genre more than allow for a wealth of creativity and it shouldn't seem to be a big issue for a band to come along and craft a piece of entirely engaging instrumental black metal. This is a genre that at its best thrives on the power of hypnotic repetition and trance-inducing, time shattering epic simplicity-what's so hard about removing the vocals and still having something worthwhile?
Apparently quite a bit, as "Nine Odes to Oblivion" is a rather boring trudge through convention. The music is fine-lo-fi and drenched in misty, foggy sonics that obfuscate as well as disorient-but without any sort of vocal expression the whole suite comes off sounding totally flat and unfinished. I came away thinking that Orrery was either a band that just half-assed one out for the hell of it or had so much trouble finding a vocalist that they just decided to record and release the songs they had, using the idea of instrumentalism as nothing more than a novel afterthought. Without vocals there's no desperation, no yearning, no real emotion to connect to. It's interesting to find myself saying that about black metal when there's so many other genres and bands that can support instrumental acts without sacrificing any of those qualities. There's just something about an anguished, wailing scream accompanying this style of music that can't be removed or replaced by any amount of processing or effects.
There have been a number of black metal bands that can work well with minimal vocals-Burzum and Weakling immediately spring to mind-and there have been plenty of bands that have issued instrumental works in their discographies that work effectively as different facets of said band's sound-think Xasthur's audial hallucinations or Paysage D'Hiver's work in cold, minimal ambience. Those instances prove that their is a place for instrumental music within black metal, but those are also bands that all have such idiosyncratic sounds the deviations from their standard aesthetics creates a compositional object of interest. It's another layer added to what's already a dense musical world. Orrery, in releasing an all instrumental album right away, show absolutely no aesthetic beyond the obvious, and while their music bears many of the geographic hallmarks of Australian BM there's really nothing here to distinguish them from a thousand other bands other than the fact that they're working without vocals. With the right vocal approach Orrery might have been a little better than the average BM band, perhaps on par with some of fellow countrymen Drowning the Light's better work. As is, "Nine Odes to Oblivion" is a tepid affair devoid of any philosophical or emotional depth, a by-the-numbers exercise in black metal that fails to realize the potential in the experiment.

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