Review

ORTHRELM OV

Album · 2005 · Avant-garde Metal
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4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
The metal universe has always been about borrowing disparate ideas and methodologies from other varied musical genres from all around the world. After all, the whole genre began by taking the psych laden blues rock of the 60s and dragging it down into the darker recesses of the sound spectrum to conjure up some of the most gloomy and sombre human emotions to emerge in its wake and simply cranking up the distortion level with darker lyrics. So it’s really no surprise that as the simple blues inspirations became exhausted in the 70s that new fuel needed to be consumed for the metal machine to take musical inspiration and ignite so it will burn like a forest fire unleashing new hitherto unthinkable possibilities. ORTHRELM, the avant-garde music duo of Mick Barr on guitar and Josh Blair on drums had been leading up to this triumph of sonic glory called OV since their debut in 2001. While the metal world cross-pollinated like a lava flow smothering the fertile lands below a volcano it continued to ratchet up its complexity level and as it began to reach the unthinkable heights of the pinnacle of progressive rock, it was beginning to seem like there was nowhere left to go.

That’s where forward thinkers like Mick Barr come in. On ORTHRELM’s 2005 landmark album OV, the duo exponentially lifted themselves above the sheer math rock wankery that their earlier albums are known for. While classical music has certainly been a major part of the hard rock and heavy metal universe ever since Ritchie Blackmore incorporated it into Mark II period of Deep Purple, never before have the two extremes of virtuoso guitar shredding and the classical minimalism of artists like Steve Reich and Philip Glass ever come together until Barr and Blair released this album of polarizing extremes in the form of the OV album in 2005. Never before has an album of incredibly virtuoso shredding of guitar with the bombast of unthinkable drum abuse coalesced into a minimalistic music form that could result in a meditative practice if consumed correctly. As wild as it sounds, this album is in effect a wild ride into two musical extremes which incorporate guitar shredding with extreme minimalism simultaneously.

Despite being limited to a mere guitar and drums, Barr and Blair are veritable beasts on their instruments of choice doing unthinkable things at a million miles per second throughout pretty much the entirety of the 45 minute and 43 second single track that makes up the album OV. After several albums of pluming their feathers and ruffling them up to impress the music fans, on OV, the duo known as ORTHRELM finally delivers the promise they had been hinting at without sacrificing the intensity that they had been implementing all along. What’s cool about OV is that it goes through a series of passages that begin with a minimalistic chord progression to wail on for several minutes and seduce you into the feel of the composition and going though various changes before finally letting loose towards the end with a series of intense riffs, shredding bombast and excruciating deciblage. This is metal unlike any other and only continues the duo’s unique musical language that only they alone truly understand.

OV is a trumph in many ways. Not only does it undoubtedly indoctrinate Mick Barr into the world of fastest shredders which should not leave Josh Blair off the hook for some of the sickest drum abuse in the entire music history books but also proves that creating unthinkable speeds is not tantamount to a lack of regard for sensuality. While on previous albums ORTHRELM did seem to generate random patterns of musical intensity, on OV everything seems like the perfect cross-pollination of the most intense musical shredding session one can think of in the context of a relaxing vipassana retreat. As the single track rolls by it is engaged in a very mindful interaction between the two instruments that change up the parts ever so slightly but then without warning they divert to some new arena of musicality but always mindful of each other’s role in the overall scheme of things. OV successfully ratchets up the tension to a fulfilling climax by the end of the album where the guitar and the drums practically become one with another and take on enough roles to simulate the intensity of a full band. OV is one of those albums that must be heard to be understood. It’s simply too far removed from the context of any possible labeling.
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