REVIEW: “Vale” by Orden Ogan

Given the 12 years it took Orden Ogan to release two full-length albums (their first, “Tesimonium A.D.” landed in 2004), the maturity of their sophomoric release, “Vale” is only slightly less surprising than it otherwise would be. Appearing (for me) from seemingly out of no-where, Orden Ogan have rekindled a sense of excitement not often felt in the cloistered world of niche heavy metal.

When “Vale” first landed on my desk(top), I was most intrigued by the band’s strange name, and their unusually cheese-less cover art (this is relative, folks). Then I began to listen. Orden Ogan have been around for a while. While I have yet to hear their first release, I can only assume they spent those first 8 years finding their sound (while releasing three demos, about which I know equally little); now, they are one of only a few bands playing melodic metal with a maturity and skill that gives their work weight and depth. Following the delicate, then epic opening intro, we segway into the sawtoothed intro riff of _To New Shores of Sadness_.

The first track on the album sets us up for what will become a somewhat tiresome series of dissapointments: tight, catchy intro leading to tighter, catchier opening verses, leading to… utterly mediocre chorus… then some catchy bridge-action, and more mediocrity. For those who are unfamiliar, it is simply _not okay_ to have a weak chorus in a heavy metal song. Some of the more extreme or proggy genres can get away with no clearly delineated chorus, but if you _go there_, you can’t go _halfway_.

They are not a power metal band. This is, I increasingly feel, a good thing. Their sound is rawer, harder, heavier; I would say _melodic metal_ if anything. Or so I thought, until the second song kicks into power-cheese mode, and I fast-forward to the third track. But the rest of the album mostly steers clear of any blatant power-metal clich├ęs.

Orden Ogan has the critical element—the ability to write catchy-ass riffs that are fresh and inspiring. The keyboard parts combine with the guitars to create some fantastic arrangements—now if only they could follow thorugh. Good intro, shitty verse, meh chorus, great bridge… so they’re a bridge band. They write great intros and bridges. WTF?

If nothing else, this album has served to introduce Orden Ogan into the field of Melodic Heavy Metal, and should allow them to expand beyond their borders (Germany) to the greater metal community. With time, one can only hope that they find their _mojo_ and manage to balance out their sound, even after 12 years (hey, why not?).

Songwriting: 3.5/5
Musicianship: 4/5
Lyrics: N/A (I don’t care)
Originality: 3.5/5
Overall: B