Once in awhile as a reviewer you hear a band that reaffirms everything you believe about music. A band that puts out a piece of music so good you want to stand up and shout. I listen to more records than I review because that is the life of a professional music appreciator. Not everything you get to listen to is the best quality or inspires great reviews because simply put, not everyone is great. The word great gets thrown around like love and hate in this disposable age. The new record from ORWELL, which is in fact great with a capital G, came to me as part of my job as a reviewer. Had I just come across it as a fan I would love it all the same. If I was starting a brand new band today and declared that it was going to be metal, I would aspire to be a great as ORWELL is on AVOH FASIH.
Laid out as a concept record of the highest order, the first song “In Tides, I Wake” is a slow, moody crusher of a song. Although it opens with gentle picked guitars, the bruising riffs and anguished vocals kick in to give it the right heavy flavor. The track would not be out of place for a CONVERGE, CAVE IN or MASTODON album. Such a good songwriting choice to build tension and start the record off with this tempo as opposed to the million albums I come across that just blaze right off the bat. There are also some beautiful and unexpected droning guitars towards the end that call to mind A PERFECT CIRCLE. From the wash of guitar noise, to the chugging middle section all the way until to the final chiming notes, the track is a keeper. Second track “In Crude, I Remain” tricked me a bit. The song started off like the last one ended, but amped up the heavy factor even more with a snake-like main riff that is addictive on repeated listens.
Vocalist Logan Hauser has pipes of cement and is a difference maker with his low howling voice and his caustic screams punctuating every track. When the tempo kicks into high gear the song shifts into overdrive. Rhythms that evoke both LAMB OF GOD and DREAM THEATER at the same time will make heads spin. The song spirals out into some top choice chordal aggression. Guitarists Tim Bradley and Erik Bolstad do a fine job of weaving complex parts together that mesh perfectly. “In Depths, I Sink” starts off with a metal roar and doesn’t let up until the very end. A true neck breaking mosh song full of PANTERA-esque grooves. None of this blend of prog and brain bashing metal would be possible without the skills of drummer Cris Bissell.
Bookending the previous track with its heartbeat ending and tribal drum intro “From Depths, I Rise” features gorgeous female vocals and a hypnotic beat. We also hear bassist Will Strickland stretch out with some fine walking lead lines. This one of the best tracks among the other outstanding ones and really surprised me on a lot of levels even though I was already enjoying the album. This song ought to have a chance to live on a place like the Liquid Metal XM radio show for being so heavy yet, so damn catchy. Frankly, I expect a song of this quality from a much older group and this speaks to ORWELL’s readiness to rise to bigger things soon. Another epic in the form of the thoughtful “In Dust, I Stand” comes later in the album and is an exercise in dynamics not unlike TOOL, especially after the breakdown. Finally the closing song “A New Awakening” ties the experience of the album together with a fitting and adventurous ending. Military marching drums give way to more intricate guitar while Hauser just wails away on vocals. The song is also gritty and has plenty of heft to go with its soulful melodies. After the climactic ending riff the entire opus ends with a mournful piano piece that just drifts away leaving a reminder that you just listened to something truly amazing.