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by Mark Hensch

Portland, Maine's Ogre is definitely a band to get excited about. As most of you know, I've devoted myself pretty much exclusively to the pursuit of fantastic unsigned bands via my "Hensch's Hometown Heroes" column. However, being only one man, I often have to pace myself by getting in contact with a small, controlled number of bands on my list...in some cases, I discovered a band but didn't even talk to them about a review several months later.

I explain this to show how damn rocking Ogre is. At my HHH column's start, I was swamped with bands to review and had vowed not to take anymore reviews on for quite some time. I stumbled across Ogre on myspace, and what I heard that day was so bloody excellent, I e-mailed them right away about a review, previous commitments and quotas be cursed!

Played vintage heavy metal straight from the dawn of the 1970's, Ogre has carried on the tradition and legacy of classic bands like Pentagram, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Cirith Ungol. Though I already reviewed their 2000 self-titled demo, their follow-up, 2003's Dawn of the Proto-Man is equally righteous, and a must have. So good is it in fact, that the powers that be here at antiMusic.com decided to swipe my review from under the banner of "HHH" and place it as our Artist of the Month, December 2005.

Few artists are better fit to wear the medal of honor that is 2005's last Artist of the Month than Ogre. I've been working here at antiMusic.com for a year and a half or so now, and in all that time I've never reviewed two separate releases by the same band and given both a perfect score of five out of five stars. Never, that is, until I heard Ogre. The spirit of rock lives on in this band...Ogre slays. Below is my review of Dawn of the Proto Man, and an interview - December 2005's artist of the month feature. Enjoy!

Interview
 
antiMUSIC:  "Dawn of the Proto-Man" sounds like a prime slab of classic hard-rock/heavy metal...what bands inspire you to write music like this? More importantly, how do you capture the spirit of an era long since past? This album could easily have been released in the 1970's! 
 
WILL: We worship Sabbath, Deep Purple, AC/DC, Pentagram, Vitus, Budgie, etc... You can probably hear those groups the most in our tunes. We wear our influences on our sleeve.
 
ED: Oh yeah, but also I think we'd have to admit to Motorhead, early Rush, and even (ack) early Metallica, first three albums only.
 
ROSS: The concept for OGRE really began late one night when I played Will a tape I had with Sir Lord Baltimore's "Kingdom Come" on one side and Budgie's s/t on the other. We already shared a mutual love of bands like Sabbath, Purple, and Kiss, but we really wanted to show our respect for those lesser known 70s rock bands that put out some incredible music back then. 

antiMUSIC:   I'd call your music vintage doom metal. In fact, bands like Black Sabbath and Pentagram are pivotal reference points when it comes to your sound. Despite the legacy of said bands, doom is often very different today than what is was originally. What do you feel constitutes true doom? Is it so much the actual music, or more the lyrics? A common theme of the songs on "Proto-Man" seems to be various forms of misfortune befalling everyone, at least lyrically; however, your music is actually very upbeat. Do you think it's possible too many doom bands focus on atmosphere rather then the actual concept of DOOM?
Weigh in! 
 
WILL: What bothers me about the "doom" scene currently is that it has become somewhat of a wasteland for sellout punk rockers/hipsters who are just trying to cash in on the scene. I have no problem with punks, but I do have a problem with people treating music like a novelty. I can immediately tell when a band has passion for what they're doing, and it seems like the good bands are getting harder and harder to find. Nowadays, anyone can down tune their guitars, play one note and let it feed back for an hour, then get signed and tour nationally. That kind of stuff doesn't move me one way or the other. I've always said that we've tried to make records with peaks and valleys. The high points on the album make the darker points all the more meaningful, I think. We try to make atmosphere, lyrics, tone, and performance all of equal importance in our tunes. 
 
ROSS: To me, "true doom" comes from Sabbath and is filtered through St. Vitus, Candlemass, Pentagram, and cult bands like Revelation. Musically, we are definitely inspired by these bands, the riffs, the clean vocals, that sense of "misfortune" that you mention are all aspects of the OGRE sound that come from classic doom. I agree with Will about the current state of doom.  Nothing frustrates me more when some band is touted as being the next big thing in doom and then all I hear is cookie monster vocals over riffless, atonal, painfully long stretches of noise. Yeah, it may sound menacing, but ultimately, it's pretty boring.
 
ED: I like to ignore the whole doom thing and just call us a hard-rock band, in the best 70s sense of the phrase.

antiMUSIC:  Speaking of "Dawn of the Proto-Man," the lyrics on this album are all over the place. There's a reference (seemingly) to "The Iron Giant" animated film, the fall of the Roman Empire, the Bubonic Plague, and even Pearl Harbor. What inspires such diversity, and how does one manage to write such fantastic songs about something as far removed from modern times as say Attila the Hun? 
 
ED: I think that the common theme in most of our songs is unexpected destruction. The reaper comes knockin' when you least expect it, so be ready. We are also a little partial to looking at the past. Ya know, the real world found in history is 100 times more horrible than anything anyone has made up as far as I know.
 
ROSS: Someone once described our lyrics as sounding like the pages ripped from the diary of a burnt-out history teacher about to go on a killing spree. One of my favorite lines from any OGRE review!

antiMUSIC:   Both your 2000 demo and "Proto-Man" are heads and shoulders above most regular releases anyways due to their unique quality. However, which do you feel is better? What do you think has changed in the band between the two releases, and in what direction do you see Ogre heading towards in the future?
 
WILL: Thanks, Mark! I'm proud of both, and it's impossible to decide. I love the street level,  lo-fi vibe on the demo. I enjoy the songs on Proto Man a lot, and the end product came out ok, but making it was a huge hassle, and I can't listen to it without thinking of all the trouble we went through making it. I was very happy when it was received as well as it was.  I must say that the new record is the best thing we've done up to this point. I can't wait for people to hear it! 
 
ROSS: In terms of live performances, I would say that the demo songs still go over the best.  Every show ends with "Age of Ice," which always gets the crowd going. But, I do think that our songwriting is improving with every album. The demo songs were whipped together almost spontaneously, which is what makes them so fresh, but the later songs have a lot more thought put into them. I'm pretty damn proud of the latest songs we have written!

antiMUSIC:   Would you be willing to share any tidbits about your upcoming album, i.e. song titles, thematic elements, concepts, etc.? Is Ogre going to try anything new with this release, or is it the textbook example of "not fixing something that isn't broke?" What's the consensus there? 
 
ROSS: I would say that, overall, these tracks are darker in sound and content than the previous releases. The lyrics are in the classic "dark side of history" mode, but the music is a bit more complex and doom-laden, though not necessarily "doom" in the classic sense of the word. Just as a teaser, some song titles are: "Dogmen (of Planet Earth)", "Soldier of Misfortune", and "Flesh Feast."  Light-hearted material for sure! And OGRE fans take note: "Dogmen" features a surprise re-appearance by a character from a song off the demo?
 
WILL: Listening to the tracks, you'll definitely be able to tell it's the same band playing, but we've grown tremendously as musicians and songwriters. This one will take it to the next level (I hope!)
 

Ogre's Dawn of the Proto-Man

Popping Ogre's 2003 debut full-length album, Dawn of the Proto-Man, into my CD player, I am filled with anxiety. The band's demo (which I reviewed prior to this writing) was exceedingly swank (it garnered five stars out of a five stars possible rating) and I hold a very dear place for it now in my collection. Sadly, there are many fantastic demos that I've heard throughout my short life that manage to blow me away and set the stage for what looks like will be a groundbreaking musical career. As time often tells, some bands fizzle out on their first full-length (though more commonly the death knell is the dreaded "sophomore slump" album) and never again make anything half-decent. Is Dawn of the Proto-Man more kick ass retro hard rock, or is it the start of a fade into pointlessness? Read on, rock fans!

I am pleased to say that Ogre has upped the ante again on Proto-Man. Whereas their demo found the band stretching into classic doom and 1970's hard rock molds, Proto-Man sees Ogre expand their skill levels in these fields while adding some scant funk, NWOBHM, and prog-rock influences. The main order of the day though is still perfect retro doom and "dawn of the genre" 1970's heavy metal. Things also take a much darker turn (or so it seems) lyrically, often touching on pretty grisly subject matter once you let your mind digest it a bit. 

 "Ogre" kicks things off with a blast. This starts with a funky bass line, and then some swaggering retro rock riffage, before the listener is blindsided with an uptempo hard rocker in the vein of faster Black Sabbath. Quite possibly a mission statement of sorts for the band, "Ogre" is a fantastic start to the album and I knew right upon hearing that blistering rock solo mid-song that this album was going to blow any low expectations had to tiny smithereens. 

The science-fiction tinged "Colossus" tells the tale of a gargantuan robot of sorts who comes from outer space, and in a tragic misunderstanding, ends up destroying a human race initially hostile to him. Beyond the fact it conjures up images of the criminally underated cartoon flick The Iron Giant, "Colossus" is probably one of the top songs on offer here. Ogre settles into a comfortable, catchy, and weighted bluesy riff that unyieldingly plods forward for the entire duration of the song. The song's soaring choruses and mellow, ringing solos seal the deal on this one fast. And fast the song gets, as half-way through the tune suddenly speeds up into a drum freak-out courtesy of skinman Will Broadbent layered with yet another righteous guitar solo.

"78" is a blue-collar rocker hailing KISS, growing old, and playing your guitar. Short, sweet, and jamming, any rock fan could hardly ask for more. Three songs in, one also starts to notice that bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham has really stretched his vocal range to new levels by going into Ozzyian mania and crooning blues rock vocals, often in the same song(!). 

The only holdover from the 2000 demo, a new version of "The Jaded Beast (parts I and II)" shows up. Shorter, tighter, and even more epic due to the improved production, this version definitely is the better of the two. For those who missed my first review of Ogre's demo, "Beast" is two parts; the vintage doom of "Out of the East (part I)" that details the rise of the Eastern Asian horde armies in Middle-Ages Europe, and "Invasion (Part II)" which is a largely instrumental prog metal piece. I cannot praise this marvelous track enough, yet the CD still continues to get better. 

The gruesome "Skeletonized" is actually one of my favorites; the song settles into some paranoia-inducing prehistoric doom riffs, and the song's tale of a decaying girlfriend will cause some churning stomachs. Cunningham's vocals on this are a sinister treat; he sings in his typical New Englander drawl for most of the song, but later portions find him hitting Bon Scott worthy highs and a few passages of undecipherable Ozzyisms. 

The World War II rocker "Suicide Ride" objectively views Japanese Kamikaze pilots; hearing Cunningham wail about "It was the Summer of 1945," anyone can tell we have another classic rock track on our hands. The spacey choruses and a sample laden bridge of warfare and cowbells simply smolders. The orgy that is the song's guitar solo will have pretty much any rock fan jumping with joy. The superbly grim "Black Death" is a YOB time-travels to jam with Sabbath rocker about everyone's favorite Bubonic Plauge Epidemic. If the lilting opening chords don't get you hooked, you have no soul and should stop listening to rock at all. 

With each listen I feel that Ogre is a band that has captured the zeitgeist of classic rock and its era and updated to a Beta version for people in our present day and age. I cannot shill this band enough; if you like rock, metal, classics, or damn good music in general, Ogre is the band for you. How great is this album and the band who spawned its glorious rock? Let's just say I'm going to burn my infernal thesaurus in a second or two for not being nearly adequate enough to describe these relics of rock. Stop reading and surf onto the websites below for the sound of HOLY. I promise you'll be a convert. Cheers!


Links

check out www.myspace.com/ogre for downloads, pics, news, and more!

www.ogrerock.com has all the official cyber-networkings of Ogre, and is a great site to boot. Check it out!

Wanna go back in time? Check out my older review of Ogre's Ogre Demo 2000.
 

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