Style: Melodic Death Metal
Release Date: 29 Mar 2019
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Back in 1993 when Sid at Groové Records in Halifax gave me a promo CD of the first Dark Tranquillity album, neither of us had a clue that it was, in many ways, the future. I really dug Skydancer at the time and I still do. Sid, on the other hand, loved the music and hated but vocals. Fast forward a quarter of a century (holy crap, has it been that long?) and melodic death metal has taken over from the Iron Maiden-esque twin guitar approach as the de facto standard for all new metal bands to play. We never saw that coming in 1993!
The problem now is that, with half the new albums being melodic death, what must all the up and coming bands do to distinguish themselves from everyone else? That question wasn't far from my mind as I listened to Wear Your Sins, the fourth studio album from Australian band Orpheus Omega, who were founded in Melbourne back in 2007.
After all, it's easy to find a unique sound when you're singing hard rock: Jimmy Barnes is as far from Angry Anderson as he is from Bon Scott. Chris Themelco, however, sounds like most other melodic death metal vocalists, as capable as he is. It's hard to sound different when you're trying to sound the same, however well you do it.
Fortunately, the band don't entirely follow suit. While his vocals are in the traditional harsh style and his guitarwork is just as traditional, the band as a whole do mix it up. There's a second voice that's clean and pleasant, if not particularly versatile, and it gets a lot of time in the spotlight too. I presume that's the voice of his fellow guitarist, João Goncalves. The other key factor is the keyboards of Keswick Gallagher which lighten the sound and do a lot to shift it in different directions.
Put together, Orpheus Omega have a melodic death base but venture often into power metal and even alternative rock. In Time starts with a choral refrain that would be appropriate for a symphonic metal band, before kicking in hard and heavy with a vicious vocal from Themelco and fast drums from his brother Matt. Insinerate, on the other hand, starts out rather like Creed, if only Creed had balls. Wash It All Away adds a hey hey hey chant on what could be groove metal, if anyone could ever properly define what that is.
I presume this very contemporary take on melodic death is why Orpheus Omega have landed a number of prominent support slots on the road, supporting Amon Amarth, Children of Bodom and, most appropriately, Dark Tranquillity, among a host of others. It's odd to hear these primarily American styles on an album that's sourced in the Gothenburg sound, but hey, why not? It worked well for Arka'n yesterday and they're from Togo, so ought to be even further from such radio-friendly American sounds.
What's awkward is that the best songs here, like In Time and Suffer, are the heaviest and most traditional ones, the ones that could have been recorded by a number of other bands. They're not entirely generic, the choral parts of In Time and the keyboards backing Suffer lending them some originality, but they aren't as divergent from the core sound as the lesser songs.
And that puts Orpheus Omega in a Catch-22 situation. The more they find their own sound, the less powerful they become. The better they play, the less they stand out. I wish I knew how they could break out of that, but I don't. I'll just mention that this is a great band but only a decent album. I'll happily check in for the next one to see how they're progressing.