Spanish so called doomsters Orthodox most definitely do not think of the slowest of subgenres in the same terms as the rest. Ever since they ripped into the American territory with their Southern Lord release Amanecer in Puerta Oscura they have continued to battle a lonely fight; basically redefining the aural structures of doom. While doing so, it is difficult and close-minded of us to continue to categorize them as such. Perhaps a tag much more open and ambiguous as ‘experimental’ will do them more justice, precisely because it doesn’t define a sound or a style per se.
In Baal, their fourth full-length, the Andalusian trio once again shows quite the range and a musical vision that goes from one delicate, refined and amorphous end of the spectrum to balls out doom rocking. Or whatever is doom rocking by their standards anyway, because Baal, like their previous recordings, is always off-kilter, strange, leftfield-ish and just not quite here.
Orthodox walk several paths at once, within the same album they tend to draw contrasting landscapes that somehow sensefully coalesce into a harmonious piece. The opening song “AltoPadre” for instance, shows the band musing around, being vague and mundane. It’s a hazy wake-up call of rumbling distortion and flickering notes that somehow are supposed to prepare us for what comes next. And what comes next is anything but straight up doom.
“Taurus” may be a heavy beast but it moves awkwardly like a three legged mammoth and it wonders around with a string sound that is totally undifferentiated. Guitar or bass? We can’t tell until halfway through when the song gets trippy with an atonal wailing solo that is both unsettling and gorgeous.
In the vocals of Marcos Serrato Gallardo Orthodox have the perfect spokesman. Matching the band’s skewed musical approach, Serrato sounds like a quivering madman on top of a mountain spewing lines that only make sense to him. His voice is never on key, his cadence is totally independent of the music.
The fourth cut “Hani Ba’al” is pop for Orthodox’s their standards. If only because in it we can easily find a chorus or what at the very least resembles one, ‘run my child into the night and tell me what your pure clean eyes can see’.The line is not exactly hammered into our ears, but it’s delivered with the melodious intentions of a hook. “Abrase la Tierra” is the closing number and for its first three and a half minutes it’s got no beat. Once it seems to kick into gear, it doesn’t. It drones and then Orthodox lets feedback do the talking. The song doesn’t close there. “Abrase la Tierra” goes over the fourteen minute mark and culminates in apotheosic fashion. This is the perfect way to close an album that is through and through a redefinition of what great doom metal should be.
Written by Bobby Peru