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Orthanc - Carnival

by Tiago Masseti at 28 October 2019, 9:59 PM

After some years of recognition in their local scene in Belgium in the 90’s and a two-decade hiatus, ORTHANC comes hammering down with their debut album, “Carnival”. Running at 41 minutes of classic Heavy Metal riffing, the album is a well-done mixture of elements from bands such as IRON MAIDEN, METALLICA, BLACK SABBATH, PANTERA, SLAYER, MOTÖRHEAD, JUDAS PRIEST, MEGADETH and others. Much is said in this industry about originality and the need to innovate but here is a good example of a band that is comfortable with paying homage to their influences and just having a good time making some head-banging music.

The album opens with the very straight-forward track “Liar”, an angry song that is 100% sure to make you want to either ride a bike or have some beer and bang your head ‘till you’re dizzy. The instrumental section is standard classic heavy metal, leaving room for the singer, Ortwin Lietaert, to showcase his blend of Mustaine and Araya with hints of Halford and Ozzy in the powerful lyrics. The title track “Carnival” follows with a circus-like waltz intro that immediately connects the listener to the album cover. This song is a bit groovier and more melodic than the first one and has an unexpected chorus, with big choirs on the background that provides a Gothic / Doom Metal feeling to it. The third track, “(O.D.) Victim of Chemical Substance" shows that the album is not just about head-banging, as it starts with a bass intro, lower-pitched and more melodic vocals and has a deep lyrical content regarding substance abuse. Something that many people in the Metal scene has either experienced or been affected by someone close being a victim of it.

Next up is “Dark Religion”, a song that deals with the long-time issue of religion dictating how people live and who should die. Powerful riffing and a slow intro that resembles the darker IRON MAIDEN moments, layered by the higher-pitched and more aggressive vocals, make this one of the stronger tracks on the record. A lyrical theme that has been explored by every major band out there but somehow never ceases to be relevant. “Knock' em Down” is a classic heavy metal anthem in every aspect and should work pretty well as a first single or a first contact with the band’s work. “Useless” is a slower track that breathes a little more and has nothing to do with its title. It sure does a great deal for the album’s color palette, with its clean guitar inserts between the heavy parts and the melancholic vocals. “(Do Unto) Others” is probably the most modern-sounding song in the album, with the modulations in the verse riffs, the phrasing in between, the breakdowns and a great chorus. The groovy bass interludes and singalong guitar themes make this a great climax to prepare the listener for the closer. “The Prophet” starts with a coral segment that sings “hallelujah” and very swiftly breaks into the faster and shorter song of the album. The bells ringing and a commanding message on the lyrics make this a great final track, ending with the singer wailing an “amen" and being cheered and applauded by a crowd. It does leave you out of the experience with a strong criticism.

This is an album that won’t change anyone’s life and won’t likely become a milestone for innovation or creativity but it is a true heavy metal record. It deals with controversial themes in a bold and incisive way. It gives you something to think about and does not contribute to some of the apathy we see in many, many bands today. It is metal made as a cultural reaction to society’s issues. Just as it was in the birth of this multi-faceted worldwide musical genre.

Songwriting: 7
Originality: 6
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

Tiago Masseti

3 Star Rating

1. Liar
2. Carnival
3. (O.D.) Victim of Chemical Substance
4. Dark Religion
5. Knock ’em Down
6. Useless
7. (Do Unto) Others
8. The Prophet
Ortwin Lietaert - Vocals
Matthias Van Den Berghe - Bass
Geert Serreyn - Drums
Marnick Serreyn - Guitars
Record Label: Independent


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