'Orochen' - 'Mechanical Eyes' (EP)
We've never hesitated in delving into some of the darker Nordic releases, which probably started with our review of The Janitors in the very early days (or did it all start with attending a Fields of the Nephalim gig when I was 18...?), and Swedish band 'Orochen' have made a good impression with their latest EP release entitled 'Mechanical Eyes', a sprawling and dense 4 tracks of gleefully dark mutterings which fuse together post rock ambition and alternative rock and gothic influences. And the good news is that there are tunes too.
Regular readers may well remember 'Orochen', as we featured them back in early 2018 when they released their self titled debut EP. The band originate from Hisingen in Gothenburg, Sweden, although as we wrote last time, the name of the band relates to one of Chinas oldest ethnic groups, the Orochen people - a Shaminst group who see the world through illusions, where every story hides thousands of other stories. And behind the shadowy songwriting and lyrics of the band is songwriter Jonas Mattsson, who contemplates a world where both man and matter are simply considered as an economic resource - and of course, there is some truth in this stark vision...
'Mechanical Eyes' opens with 'Dirty Hands', with a quite blistering and brutal mix of guitars hitting after just 10 seconds, which I just love listening to, before switching to the almost whispered vocals. But the appeal of the music to me is the melodic intent, because whilst some bands of this ilk struggle to offer a catchy chorus, 'Orochen' deliver an almost anthemic style refrain, accompanied by a chanting backing band. The post rock style instrumental section builds to a great climax some 5 minutes in, and the whole offering is intense, dark and rather wonderful. Title track 'Mechanical Eyes' has a throbbing undercurrent, an epic instrumental opening which seems to come from some murky underground world, before opening up with an almost jaunty madrigal style guitar and backing vocal melody, before the lead vocals takes us back into the dark depths - and it's those contrasts in sound which make the song interesting. 'Shiny String of Lies' has really grown on me, not as complex as the other songs on the EP, but with an accessible, more conventional structural feel to it that is easy on the ear. Concluding track 'Thinking Eyes' is possibly my favourite of all, again the contrasts in sound at the start are evident, but it's the intense wall of noise that they generate which is so compelling, and the last 2 minutes are a quite blistering conclusion.
Take a listen to 'Dirty Hands' here, but actually I recommend you give the whole EP a whirl.
Of course, the slightly gloomy epic nature of these tracks will not be to everyone's personal taste. But I always find its best not to take that 'darker' lyrical and musical backdrop too seriously. For sure there is a point behind the ambitions and message from Jonas Mattsson and the band to contemplate, but the reality is that this is just a group of musicians blasting out a great intense rock noise, and hopefully having as much fun writing, recording and performing it, as I've had fun listening to it. And 'Orochen' appeal not just because of the noise they make, but because of the genuinely nice tunes they somehow infuse into the mix, and as such they are accessible, interesting and 'Mechanical Eyes' is a hugely enjoyable listen from start to finish.