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On one bloody palm, Orthodox have come far since the ‘Iowa‘ worship of 2017’s ‘Sounds Of Loss,’ and are now barrelling forward toward one day perhaps having their own little niche sound with the path that new album, ‘Let It Take Its Course,’ is paving. Yet on the other clenched fist, much of the time this just sounds like the bands and records that they themselves enjoy, and less like them. At least currently.
There are the rapidly-picked, over-bearing drop-tuned guitars that smother most of these tracks, not unlike what Slipknot would’ve done back in the day, as is the swirling noises of the album’s introductory piece, ‘Remorse.’ The guitars’ laser pick-scrapes all feel very Gojira-esque, but never quite as gnarly as what that particular French metal band achieves. The manic, edgy spoken-word vocals also pull this album further in line with that of a band like the often-polarizing King 810, where the words place the ugly, voice-shaking internal sentiments behind this record all front and center. On top of that, Orthodox vocalist Adam Easterling also sounds like a ring-in for King 810’s David Gunn at times.
The ghostly choruses on ‘Look At Me‘ sound like an imitation of Korn’s cleaner refrains, whereas some of the album’s hardcore and metalcore-leaning moments are highly remiss of Australia’s own Gloom In The Corner, especially with the violent lyrical imagery and the vocal timbres. The droning, stop-start guitars that begin ‘Leave‘ feel like they were ripped straight out of Code Orange’s industrial playbook, as are the panicked, pitched-shifted guitar groans too. Oh, and then there’s cruel whispered vocals and moans that could’ve been lifted off any number of other heavy acts going today; ‘Then It Ends‘ abuses the shit out of this and maybe tries a little too hard to be eerie and menacing. References between these guys and their peers in Cane Hill will also be very frequent, I’m sure.
This is, ironically enough, quite par for the course with where this type of hardcore and metalcore is at; Orthodox’s sound is paradoxically orthodox and unorthodox. All over this Tennessee bands grim new album, there are butt-loads of late 90s nu-metal aggression to be soaked up, as is ample supply of modern hardcore and metalcore vibes too. Yet unlike say, Loathe, where all of their comparisons and cross-overs end up creating something wholly new, Orthodox’s closest and inescapable comparisons don’t really do them any favours. However, the potential’s there for them to cultivate this sound into a new realm as time progresses. And it is not without merit, as the good does still outweigh the bad.
For one, the production is a stronger high-point this time around. Clearly, more time, thought and money was sunk into the mix and the songwriting this time around, and that clearly shows in the end result of ‘Let It Take Its Course‘ being a more well-rounded vision of what this band wishes to accomplish. And that bass tone, my god, what a furious, aggro sounding thing! The grumbling low-end under-current of ‘Look At Me‘ is superbly well done, for instance. In fact, on that same song, the natural harmonics and bass-heavy grooves of ‘Look At Me‘ that morph into blast-beats and huge Slipknot influences to the guitar work (the rhythm of those big-ass chugs), we get an overly-familiar yet very fun track. And it’s great how the song grows into this darker but slightly more melodic piece over time, before throwing you back into the lion’s den with these overwhelming, over-distorted crunchy guitar drops and tectonic drums.
‘Why Are You Here?‘ is one of the rare songs here that captures the true sense of brutal mania and inner-pain that Orthodox are clearly aiming to express with this LP’s sonic tone. Likewise, the title track has some of the heaviest, most dissonant moments of the whole record, with some solid instrumental syncopation in its opening grooves to make Orthodox sound as large, as powerful, and as deadly as possible; with Adam later cooly whispering about how he hopes that “…you’re not the one who finds me“. Then, set over cold piano chords, closer ‘Wrongs‘ is back-ended by ominous semi-baritone vocals that mention how”…there’s no wrong I wouldn’t do for you,” which all makes for one chilling album climax.
There are some breaks, some smaller respites, to Orthodox’s heaviness scattered throughout this second record. Like that pingy, dry-ass guitar lick heard halfway through ‘I Can Show You God,’ or the cleanly picked somber guitar outro to ‘Cut.’ Or if that’s not up to your speed, there’s the quick spoken-word poem at the end of ‘Then It Ends‘; “Peace is found, pain is rediscovered. Not all is lost, but not much is left. And the only way to survive is to hurt; to let it take its course,” sharing the mission statement of Orthodox’s latest.
In that sense, ‘Let It Take Its Course‘ is definitely meant to sound like a person living right on the knife’s edge, yet it can come off more like an album aiming to be more profound than what it actually is. The record’s themes of hurt, the presence of depression felt in someone’s life, feelings of Imposter Syndrome, festering obsession, doings wrong but also getting wronged, and somewhat creepy over-protection will strike a chord with many. It’s meant to sound like a literal and figurative mental and emotional breakdown, cut to tape like a therapist’s log. Yet I just found it all a little contrived and melodramatic, what with the purposeful voice-breaks heard throughout the album sounding more forced than natural. It’s an album that straddles a line between honesty, evilness and played-up dramatics, one that at times sounds authentic yet at others, sounds like it’s all being “acted” up because the red recording light is on.
I might not be that crazy about it, but I cannot deny this one simple fact: Orthodox have stepped up their game with album number three. ‘Let It Take Its Course’ is a brooding improvement on all facets of its 2017 predecessor, with the American heavy outfit showcasing a wider breadth of influences and inspirations the second time around, growing darker, heavier and bleaker in all the right ways for this niche of nu-metal-aping hardcore/metalcore. While it never once feels like it’s a sound that this band makes their own, nor taken in any new or fresh directions, Orthodox do still pull it off competently enough. They may have once had my disdain, but now they have my attention at least.
Why Are You Here?
I Can Show You God
Look At Me
Then It Ends
Let It Take its Course
‘Let It Take Its Course’ releases February 7th: