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!
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
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?
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?
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?
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!