Sometimes it takes us a while to find our feet in the New Year, but we have a wealth of new music to feature, and (inevitably) some catching up to do from 2017 - the year in which we started with a backlog, finished with a backlog, and maintained a backlog during the middle bits too. We'll start 2018 with 'Orochen' and their 4 track digital self titled release which came out just 8 days before Christmas itself.
The Orochen people are one of the oldest ethnic groups in China. Mainly hunters of descent, they originally followed Shaminism, and their Shamens saw the world through illusions where every story hides thousands of other stories, and where truth is built on lies. That darkness is maintained through Orochen's music, built around singer Jonas Mattsson's assessment of a world where both humans and the environment are looked upon as a mere economic resource.
The EP opens with 'Breath of Sorrow' and immediately we're offered a barrage of sustained guitar noise, but quickly that opens up to reveal melodic vocals and it is clear that this is a band which take influences from a wide range of rock genres - including post metal and sludge stained hardcore. But exactly 2 minutes 30 into this opening track, the song changes direction with the most deft of Post Rock touches, and immediately I'm bought into their approach to songwriting. 'Peasant Hands' also opens with that intensity of guitars, but here it is the emotional appeal in the vocals which make the track work, and the track rattles along at pace, alternating between forceful guitars and softer vocals.
'Capitalist Creed' is undoubtedly the stand out track, and actually that's probably due to the strength of the melody - after all (as someone once said) 'it all comes down to the tunes kids', irrespective of music genre. But the track has so many great qualities to it, as lyrically Jonas Mattsson really hits the mark (''all that we have to do is produce, consume and spit it out'), there are some brilliant instrumental climaxes and the whole track is played out against a disturbing and menacing backdrop - with each guitar sound making a point. 'Long Loved Horse' is sadly not a sequel to 'My Lovely Horse', but the concluding song of the EP, a track where all the bands influences, from folk to metal are brought together, and I love the different shades of grey and black that they portray, along with the huge crescendo to another musical climax in the latter stages of the track.
Undoubtedly the success of this EP lies with Orochen's ability to paint dark pictures through their music, through the intensity of the guitars and drumbeats, combined with vocals that never scream or shout, but just tell you how it is. I really like this band. They've used all their influences in the creation of the EP, and Jonas Mattsson does genuinely have something interesting to say through his lyrics. I really think this will have widespread appeal across the rock and metal fans spectrum, and even if I do say so myself, this is a pretty darn good way to start 2018.