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Ordinance - The Ides Of March Award winner

Ordinance
The Ides Of March
by Daniel Fox at 27 February 2016, 9:22 AM

“By which would you categorise the band, ORDINANCE?”

A. Romecore
B. Caesarcore
C. Imperial Death Metal
D. All of the above; because fuck you.

NILE are doing your Egyptian metal, BEHEMOTH are… -WERE- doing your Mesopotamian metal, and the majority of northern-residing Extreme Metal bands are doing the Viking thing, in general. The bands that march to these themes are legion (can Legionary Metal be option D?). However, if you manage to find me other bands that write a 60+ minute album steeped in, arguably, the most pivotal point in Roman history, I will grant you ten points to a Hogwarts house of your choosing.

ORDINANCE are a studio project formed by George Macklin (JEFF LOOMIS/SYSTEM DIVIDE) and Alex Rudinger (GOOD TIGER/CONQUERING DYSTOPIA) in 2009, bringing in a second guitarist, Gunter Ostendorp later that year, and Mike Semesky (RAUNCHY/REST AMONG RUINS/ex-THE HAARP MACHINE/ex-INTERVALS) in 2010. With an album released in 2011, titled “Internal Monologues” 5 years is a long time for a follow-up. 2016’s brand-spanking new epic, “The Ides Of March”, is nearly 5 years in the making, according to the band, and it’s easy to see why it’s not the kind of album one can throw out at the behest of a bi-yearly record contract.

If the title didn’t give anything away: the album provides an account of the murder of Julius Caesar, ProgDeath-style. Mike is no stranger to putting his lyrical touch to epic concept albums, and once again, “The Ides Of March” is no simple, linear adventure. Instead, the majority of the album’s tracks are narrated from the perspective of certain figures either present at, or responsible for, his assassination. By the end of the album, instead of coming away with a “…so that’s how he saved the girl and killed the dragon”, you’re more likely to walk away with a “wait, so WHAT was Calpurnia up to? I think I need to re-listen to all 60-fucking-minutes of it”. That, my friends, is how you get schooled - ProgDeath-style.

Given the non-linear fashion in which this album progresses, thinking about or otherwise analysing it like one does ordinarily, is folly. Naturally, the idea is to absorb it like a smack in the face, and be tenderised, over and over and over and over. Nevertheless, a number of tracks stand out for obvious reasons “Ista Quidem Vis Est” is the most obvious choice to commence the album. For the non-Latin speakers, like myself, this phrase translates to “Why, this is violence!”; the famous words uttered by the soon-to-be-stabbed Caesar. If you’re going to write an album about the man’s death, why not make it plainly obvious? In its short duration, the Republic has just commenced its transition into an Empire, and to kick that off we have a lot (a lot) of blastbeats, and an unshakably ‘Roman’ chord progression. The title is chanted in repetition with the kind of foreboding that I suppose goes with the times.

‘Roman chord progressions’ are something you’ll be reading me reference a lot, because the band’s illustrious guitarists woke up one day, and realised it would be a marvelous idea to really evoke the flavour of the times, and I’m not being colloquial. In listening to tracks like “Of The Fatherland”, the title track and “Heir Avid”, I don’t really have to explain what Roman chords are; not only because I cannot, but because the songwriting is that effective, that that is what you cannot help but feel. ORDINANCE wants us to feel Caesar’s pain, the self-imposed patriotism of his assassins and otherwise would-be detractors, and the very surreal, “my great uncle is going to leave me an empire”.

The former, albeit being my personal favourite on the album, is told through the eyes of Caesar, wherein his vision for the would-be Empire is made apparent, particularly through the chorus; “What is it going to take for you to bleed for me?”. Mike’s glorious chorus delivery, and the virtuosic guitar-squeezing of the awe-inspiring, Proggy “deedle-dees” that followed over a brutally syncopated drum attack, paint this as one of the most significant, if not the hands-down best song on the album. The album’s title track, which features long after the almost heart-felt musings of Caesar’s adopted son Octavian (later to be known as Augustus, the first Roman Emperor) in “Heir Avid”,  holds the special disposition of being the most ‘evil’ sounding track on the album, and one of Gunter’s songwriting contributions. Much more direct in terms of narrative, than the album’s other pieces, this song tackles the Imperial bloodletting itself, through the eyes and knives of the assassins themselves; a rather cool, if not sadistic, creative touch. Chock-full of brutally heavy riffs, truly menacing chord progressions, being completely devoid of clean vocals and encompassing a general descent into darkness, the title track is easily the album’s heaviest track, in both literal and figurative senses of the word.

The music on the album takes a dramatic and different turn come “Shadow Mask”, sung through Cicero; interestingly, he is one of the few characters in this album who didn’t actually have a hand in murdering Caesar. I’ve bleated enough about ‘Progressive Death Metal’, and in this track, the Prog becomes very much alive, in all of its trippy and abstract glory. Throw around the word djent if you must; as far as Cicero’s narrative is concerned, that’s the word/accidentally-coined-joke of the day. Blow me down, it works absolutely perfectly, adding a touch of magic to the song’s verses. Even the lyrics will take a great deal of brain-taxing attention to access, and come across as an homage to the great philosopher himself (Option E: Philosocore?). Pay attention to this track, pay a great deal of attention. Match every line you hear to the lyric booklet, and attempt to understand what is going on, for this is a song absolutely meant to be studied; I’m the one writing this diatribe and I still haven’t fully cracked it, but I’m having boatloads of fun.

“The Ides Of March” is one of those uncanny albums that has something for everyone. Beautiful melodies, moody chord progressions, the odd catchy chorus, blast beats, the heavy of the heavy in Death Metal riffing, intelligent and engaging subject matter, more blast beats, and apparently a poignant history lesson. Are parts of it inaccessible? Absolutely. Is the generic Slam munter (sincerely, no offense, Slam munters) going to consider this “cool death metal bro”? Perhaps not, if they make it past “Of The Fatherland”. Then again, the last time I checked, these lads (especially Mike, from what I considered from his past work) don’t make music for the sake of accessibility.

While my acquaintances whom know me well enough to know how much I hate pausing MECHINA albums, ORDINANCE are going to be at the forefront of my Foobar list for now, because “The Ides Of March” is one of the best albums I have ever heard; the coolest part is, I’m still trying to understand it.

Songwriting: 10
Memorability: 10
Originality: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Ista Quidem Vis Est
2. Bloodwine
3. Of The Fatherland
4. Heir Avid
5. Forewarn, Forsake
6. Denarius
7. Silent Senate
8. 23 Wounds
9. Divine Right
10. Winter Canvas
11. The Ides Of March
12. Fear Of Discovery
13. Shadow Mask
14. Remedy
15. The Moving Spirit
Lineup:
Mike Semesky - Vocals
Greg Macklin - Guitars
Gunter Ostendorp - Guitars
Alex "Rudy" Rudinger - Drums
Record Label: Independent
     


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Edited 04 July 2020
 

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