Orb Seven “.ismos” (2014)

The idea of “outer space” often has a calming effect on heavy metal music. How does one stay bitter in the face of such profound distance and emptiness – such total absence of anything earthly and familiar? Some have taken rage and misanthropy into space nonetheless, screaming at the stars without a planet to stand on, their cries echoing to exhausted vacuum silence among immutable tides of far-flung radiation.

It seems a much more natural thing to leave the earth in a spirit of openness and curiosity. On .ismos, the latest LP from multi-instrumentalist Zeven’s ORBSEVEN project, the listener is invited to travel along on just such a journey. The previous two ORBSEVEN releases, The Linear Divide and Fall Below the Earth, blended aggression and ambiance, remaining largely entrenched in Death Metal’s realm of visceral brutality. On .ismos however, ORBSEVEN has all but abandoned its earthly vessel, reaching to the great without for answers to the most enduring mysteries of human existence.

.ismos is a clean, streamlined record. Its relative minimalism is a bold, risky gesture – a willful elimination of the sonic crags and ravines that traditionally offer shelter to the flaws common in homemade Heavy Metal projects. .ismos is recorded and mixed very well, coming across as orderly and precise. However, there are still moments where you can sort of hear the bedroom – especially with the vocals. The mix also seems to lack a certain glue – the musical and sonic elements are present, but a remaster would really push .ismos to the next level.

However, generally speaking, .ismos’ beauteous moments outweigh its amateurish ones. The first real taste of the sublime arrives with “Gravity Room”, where bittersweet guitar chords, chorused vocals and crisp, expressive drumming all coalesce into a passage of expansive delight. Traced in clean lines, .ismos’ best moments are more classicist than impressionist, maintaining their elegance even as sounds and melodies are layered liberally.

A large contributing factor to .ismos’ graceful, listenable texture is Zeven’s decision to eschew harsh vocals. Instead, a panoply of approaches buoy the album’s flight. Robotic voices burble forth from dimensional boundaries. Empyrean choirs phase in like blossoming novae. Cosmic advisers offer guidance from dark quadrants, their limpid, ageless tones free of judgment, fear, anger, or regret.

.ismos is by no means a toothless album, however. Driving, distorted guitar forms the basis for many of its most exciting moments. “Face to the Fire” oscillates between a heavy, urgent chord progression and a subdued series of vocal-and-bass passages. “Staircases” ruminates in quietude for about three minutes before blasting off into panoramic exuberance. This kind of contrast is used to full effect throughout .ismos, providing vital contour to ORBSEVEN’s open-ended compositions.

If .ismos has an Achilles heel, it is songwriting drift. Some of the best musical passages are followed by awkward, meandering ones that dissipate the splendor and momentum that were so rightfully earned. Ambient interludes “A Part of Nothing” and “Turning the Sun” merely move the album along, adding little in terms of impact. To be fair, even the less memorable passages do maintain the extraterrestrial mood and setting of .ismos, which remains airtight throughout the album’s 42-minute running time.

After the ambient-reflection-to-riff-parade of “Staircases” and sound collage of “Turning the Sun,” the album closer “Omniversal” is unveiled. The song acts as a summation and a conclusion, manifesting yearnings for freedom and transcendence as a collection of musings, quotations and poetic verse. Representative of .ismos’ essential curiosity, the threads of thought create a small pocket of resonance and warmth, before spiraling out as a humble query for the universe. While it is an earnest, illuminating release from a clearly devoted auteur, .ismos is not quite ready to dethrone the Space Metal big boys. But ORBSEVEN’s unique compositions and careful sonic stewardship hold a very real measure of promise, making for contemplative listening now, and pointing to even greater things in the future.

-David Sano

Release:  October 2014
Label:  Self-Released
Avantgenre:  Inquisitive Space Metal
Duration:  42 Minutes
Origin:  United States
Official site:  http://https://www.facebook.com/orbsevenmusic
Review online since:  09.10.2014 / 23:12:15


01 – Falsifier
02 – Gravity Room
03 – Face To The Fire
04 – A Part Of Nothing
05 – Staircases
06 – Turning The Sun
07 – Omniversal

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