Melbourne’s Orpheus Omega have long since established themselves as the stalwart purveyors of Gothenburg-influenced melodic death metal here in Australia. With such distinctive common elements uniting bands who fall under this stylistic umbrella, there is the danger that several albums into their career, they can begin to sound rather formulaic and paint-by-numbers. But with their latest studio release ‘Portraits’, Orpheus Omega have not only managed to prevent this repetition by utilising experimentation to great effect. They have also created a deeply personal, compelling collection of sonic stories that are as vibrant, nuanced and engaging as the band members who wrote them. Additionally, something the five-piece have always had a knack for is maximising the impact of a great guest collaboration in their records. With almost every track on ‘Portraits’ featuring collabs with superstars of the metal world, this EP packs a massive punch, with new surprises to discover on repeat listens.
Within These Walls is one hell of an opener, with a polished dance between elegant orchestrations and melodic lead guitar licks, punishing harsh vocals, an earworm chorus and cyclonic blast beats delivered within the first 90 seconds alone. With the sheer number of musical layers, the auditory experience should be overwhelming – but instead, each musical element works like numerous tiny puzzle pieces that fit together effortlessly to create a kaleidoscopic soundscape. There’s a fabulous guitar solo in this track, and Mors Principum Est’s Andy Gillion’s guest vocals lend a unique flavour. The gorgeous orchestrations are the perfect soft contrast to the fury of the blistering guitar riffs and razor-sharp drums, and all of this is bolstered by superb production.
Edge of Forever starts out with something of a futuristic edge with its 80s synths, but this soon gives way to a frenzy of guttural growls and lightning-fast lead guitar. This single is probably the most progressive track Orpheus Omega have ever written – by the end of its 7 minute runtime, you feel that you have been hurtled through the space-time continuum, from this dimension into the next. Sure enough, there are various trademark Orpheus melodeath features like the keytar/guitar solo duel, arpeggiated guitar sweeps and thunderous drums, but the more evenly paced choruses have a groove to them that echoes Monuments and Architects. This would also be due, in part, to the stunning vocal contributions of Caligula’s Horse’s Jim Grey – a standout feature on the track.
O Dissimilate Destruct is arrestingly emotive to listen to even without prior knowledge of the thematic context that inspired the track. Being the longtime fan and follower that I am, I know that the heart-wrenching journey of identity crisis then self-discovery experienced by songwriter Kes forms the inspiration behind this track, and the intensity is palpable. The track is a true art of the slow burn – it lingers at a subdued level for just long enough that when the chaos of the climax hits, it’s a real shock to the system. It leaps from sad 90s alt-rock Placebo vibes straight into death metal so searing that it’s almost tipping into Pig Destroyer grindcore, and it’s a real departure from the band’s usual sound.
Then for The Prophecy, we’re back to the seamless arpeggiated guitar sweeps in harmonic minor for a solid opening motif. Frontman Chris Themelco gets the opportunity to show off his versatile harshes, and drummer Matt Themelco flexes flawlessly executed, endless double kicks. Guest growls from Omnium Gatherum’s Jukka Pelkonen and Markus Vanhala provide nice additional texture, though Chris does such a stellar job with his vocals in this track that he’s stealing the show. Finally, it’s the keytar’s time to shine in Exist to Observe, which is four minutes of pure, unrelenting, melodic chaos. Blisteringly fast, brash, colossal and immersive, this track is the musical representation of the phrase “more is more”, with blast beats, keytar and guitar shreds, interchanging harsh and clean vocal sections from both Chris and guest vocalist, the great Bjorn “Speed” Strid of Soilwork all fighting for dominance. It’s like Decapitated meets Epica – a majestic, crazy whirlwind of a time, and just like that, the EP crashes definitively to an end.
In ‘Portraits’, Orpheus Omega have redefined their sound and created a record that morphs, shifts and reveals more of its secrets with every listen. Five tracks written by five individual members as a musical expression of self – and so often, who we show ourselves to be is so different from who we feel we really are. The catharsis of ‘Portraits’ lies in the honesty, the mess, the chaos; the comfort of expressing our true selves and the full spectrum of our human experience.
Purchase ‘Portraits’ HERE
With thanks to Cult Etiquette PR