Seventh Year of the Broken Mirror is the fourth studio album by US Power Metal act Order of Nine. The album was released in 2012. Order of Nine plays a mostly guitar driven brand of power metal that doesn’t shy away from the use of keyboards but they use them in a way that sets their sound outside what one would expect from so called European/melodic power metal. At the same time I wouldn’t put it in quite typical USPM territory either, more like somewhere in the middle. The cover art to my eyes actually suggests gothic metal, but that would be a major misassumption.
An important thing to remember when coming to Seventh Year of the Broken Mirror is that it’s highly unlikely going to be a love at first listen album. That’s because in Michael Degrena Order of Nine has a vocalist that doesn’t sound like he belongs in a power metal band. That’s something that is glaringly obvious as soon as he starts singing in the opening title track. He has a deep baritone voice. Time must be given to get used to his tone before the record is really able to open up and allow the songs here to be appreciated. When that happens his vocals manage to work within the power metal context, but I think power metal fans liking him is going to be a very much hit and miss thing. Ultimately I personally found that I quite like him. He makes the album sound a little different to the masses, which is always a good thing in my book. In some ways he reminds me of former Iced Earth/Pyramaze frontman Matt Barlow, not so much in tone as the vocals here have a much more pure sound compared to Barlow’s aggressive approach, but in the way the vocals are delivered over the backdrop of power metal riffage.
Order of Nine’s sound also includes influences from progressive metal and symphonic metal, with parts from each style being used for flavour within the power metal context. The keyboards in the sound are not only used in a symphonic manner, which I find greatly refreshing. The use of piano in some areas works particularly well, while progressive influences allow the album to throw a few curveballs without Order of Nine losing the ability to put out a rocking track, and they do put out quite of few of those during the course of this album, but special mention to Dreamspeak and Changing of the Guard, the latter of which features some of the album’s best instrumental work. Eye of the Enemy also features some great use of keyboards giving off quite the classical sounding approach that works really well for Order of Nine.
At the end of the day this is going to be a love or hate album in my opinion but that’s all down to those vocals, the rest of the band’s musical elements should have wide appeal among metalheads. That makes it somewhat difficult to score but I think no less than a great album rating is warranted for Seventh Year of the Broken Mirror. Try it out, you may just be surprised.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))