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(46:26 / Black Widow Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. In the Vault 3:38 2. A Beginning 5:55 3. Anton 5:43 4. Island of Joy 5:50 5. Frontline Dreams 6:42 6. Opening by Watchtower 8:43 7. Lighthouse 11:41 LINEUP: Kimi Karki - guitars Pekka Pitkala - guitars Pirkka Leino - organ, piano Jussi Lisko - saxophone, flute Antti Fredriksson - basses Albert Witchfinder - vocals J. Lovely - drums
Prolusion. This Finnish band has existed since 1997, originally under the name of Mesmer, but five years later they took another moniker, ORNE. I have no idea whether "The Conjuration by the Fire" is their first release, since I didn't find the band's website either in the CD booklet or in the press kit. One of the outfit's primary songwriters, Kimi Karki, is known to some as Peter Vicar.
Kimi's lyrics relate to such different matters as religion and occultism, history and horror stories, reflecting also his vision of the causes of wars and even his childhood memories. As their primary musical benefactors Orne list early King Crimson, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Van Der Graaf Generator (VDGG hereinafter) and Black Sabbath. I've heard all the studio albums by all the said groups, yet I just wanted to say I haven't noticed any influences of the first three of them on the recording, but instead found those of Jethro Tull. Nevertheless, except for the only one episode that I will touch on in due time, the influences are never obvious, let alone striking. What is striking is that the album has an almost authentic vintage sound and leaves a strong impression that it was recorded in 1970 or 1971, just with the use of up-to-date technologies (since the sound as such is excellent). The keyboards available are Hammond organ and Roland piano; the drums are acoustic; the wind instruments don't need any comment, and while I don't know which guitar models the axemen play, I am certain the pedals they use are all relative rarities nowadays. With the exception of the only instrumental In the Vault, which opens the album as a beautiful interplay between acoustic guitar and organ, all the tracks have a minstrel feeling, which is to a greater degree due to the singer's approach than to the presence of acoustic guitar and flute, especially since both these instruments only take part in half the songs, which total six in number. Just as that of the previously described cut, the title of the concluding track, Lighthouse, instantly evokes the name of VDGG, but the song itself is different overall as well, only once (and relatively fleetingly) bringing to mind the work of that English ensemble. Overall, this rather eclectic piece contains in approximately equal proportions symphonic and psychedelic textures, which now alternate with each other, now merge into one unique whole - mainly in the instrumental sections. This is also the only track where a few brutal-like vocals can be heard; it's the so-called black-metal screaming, to be precise, although the music is never heavy. The sinister narration, that the song ends with, is a bit overextended and is the only moment on the CD that doesn't give me any pleasure, unlike everything that precedes it. The sax-, guitar-, and organ-driven Anton is an amazingly complicated ballad, not without what is known as musical magic, which though resides in most of the yet-to-be-named songs too. Taken without its narrative 'finale', Lighthouse would only be the second longest track, yielding the palm in this field to its predecessor, Opening by Watchtower (8:43), which is a very strong tune, in terms of composition, arrangement and originality all alike. The active and, at the same time, innovative use of various acoustic instruments alongside the others makes it sound in places in a really wonderful way - at once intense and fragile. Just to give you an idea of that song's sonic architecture, I'd suggest you imagine a cross between "The Least We Can Do" by VDGG, Jethro Tull's "Benefit" and Black Sabbath's "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" - yeah, the one with Rick Wakeman on board. Haven't heard? Then think progressive Doom Metal with a great keyboardist always keeping himself occupied, the same being typical of all three remaining tracks too. Curiously, on each of those when Orne go heavy they always play fast, whilst their symphonic maneuvers are there much more often performed with a slow pace than otherwise, all of which certainly doesn't contradict the essence of Doom Metal or Art-Rock either. A Beginning and Frontline Dreams both stylistically represent a combination of those two genres, whilst the heavy component of Island of Joy belongs to Hard Rock. Oh almost forgot: Frontline Dreams is the only number which features a borrowed theme - it repeats the central riff of Children of the Grave from Black Sabbath's "Master of Reality". Analysis.
Conclusion. I can't say "The Conjuration by the Fire" is a masterpiece, but this is certainly an excellent album, just filled with inspiration. While never highly intricate, the music is always intriguing, never losing its attraction. In any event, if you generally find my reviews to be truthworthy and like the idea running all through this one as well, I believe you will not miss with this CD.
VM: July 25, 2007
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