To be successful, you have to be who you are. Who you are, though, depends on what you allow yourself to be. Confusing, yes. But easier to understand than it appears. As time has gone by, bands feel the need to progress and change, adapting to new trends and fads, rather than being what they set out to be. But the true titans of the genre, and each subgenre has them, have maintained their vision. Orion have a long list of influences, but their own output has not yet been fulling determined. They have found a home in the death metal coliseum, but have yet to decide on which side of the ring they stand. At times, they bring to mind the powers of old school death metal, while at others, they walk a much more curvy line, flowing into and out of melodies like so many modern bands. With On The Banks Of Rubicon, they take their own winding path, turning and twisting between the two without ever planting their feet firmly in the middle.
There are certainly similarities to be found with other major label acts, but as Oh Sweet Ebullition gets into its sweet spot, you realize that those comparisons mean nothing. A verse that could pass for Cannibal corpse, a bridge that sounds like a progressive dream, it all adds up to a completely different formula. It's a fine line being tread here, one that straddles progressive and traditional death metal to varying degrees of success and cohesion. It finds a niche in the last minute, which expands in Devoured Existence. It is the presence of melody and depth that makes the band sound their best, and the guitars provide that here. The amount of time spent wandering between each style is both a strength and a curse. Astral builds momentum as a death metal crusher, only to step back when it seems to be at its most fierce. The latter half of the song is a complete turn, melodic vocals commanding the room. It isn't bad, per se, but it does create instability and a feeling of disjointedness. Conversely, My Dying Prayer is as straight forward a track as you can find, never wavering from its predetermined goal of crushing your very soul.
There has been a growing feeling in the metal community that you have to be more clever; you can't play a straight forward, easily defined style, and still be successful. While that is completely false, it does help to push musicians to progress in their style of choice. But it also leads to an unhealthy trend, one that waters down each sub genre with derivative versions of itself. Progressive death metal isn't the be all and end all of death metal in 2014. You can stay true to the roots of the genre, without adding the melodies and forward thinking structures. It's as though Orion, for as good as they are in every facet of their music, can't decide what it is they want to be. As a death band, they excel with hard cutting riffs and growls. As a prog band, their melodies are crisp and well structured. But together, it's a tough pill to swallow in this case. On The Banks Of Rubicon feels uneven and rocky, even at it's finest moments. And sometimes, it begs the questions: isn't simpler better?
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