Review [O] Page
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Opeth - Blackwater Park
Orion Riders - A New Dawn
Orpheo - Echoes
O.S.I. - Office of Strategic Influence
Oxygene8 - Poetica


Opeth - Blackwater Park
Music for Nations
(2001)

Mostly, the bands from Sweden have been known as really excellent musicianship and great quality. Opeth is another talented Swedish band. They are somewhat known as Death Metal band, because they feature heavy distorted death vocals. However, the music they played is different from most typical death metal bands out there. It sounds like almost progressive metal with touch of death metal and atmospheric/melancholic flavors. However, it does not sound Dream Theater-esque or Queensryche-esque Prog Metal music at all, either. There are lots of nice sensibilities and great musicianship to display melancholic and dynamic lyrical world on Blackwater Park. Stylistically, Blackwater Park will appeal to the fans who enjoyed their previous album, Still Life.

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Orion Riders - A New Dawn
Lion Music
(2003)

Italy has been known as a country of producing many talented prog metal/rock and symphonic metal bands. Here I've got a cd of 1st album of Orion Riders called "A New Dawn" from Lion Music. As you know that Lion Music in Finland becomes a hosehold name among prog metal and technical fusion/instrumental music fans. I did not expect that Lion Music signed the symphonic power metal band like Orion Riders. Of course, I am not saying it is in their wrong direction. Actually, this is pretty good move for Lion Music label. Nowadays, Lion Music introduces us many different types of quality prog and instrumental bands and artists from all over the country. Orion Riders is definately fresh new addition for Lion Music to market new areas in the metal scene. Ok, let's investigate the music of Orion Riders briefly. A New Dawn album features lots of speed metal ensembles with orchestrated keyboards and choral parts in an Italian Metal manner. Stylistically, the music of what Orion Riders has been striving for reminds me of Labyrinth and Rhapsody. There are lots of nice twin guitar leads and keyboard arrangements including some Euro-style key/synth solos. Even though they seem to be young musicians, Orion Riders made pretty good sounding melodic speed metal. What Orion Riders sets apart from other Italian Metal and symphonic metal bands is that they add some prog metallic spices. Rhythmically, it is not too-straight forward. Rather, I enjoyed different types of rhythmic changes and developmental sections on this album. A New Dawn might not be an earthshattering works, but their ensemble and musicianship are pretty intense and very good. If you are into the music of Labyrinth, Symphony X, and Stratovarius, I can imagine that you will enjoy this band quite a lot. This is their first album, so hopefully they will keep growing to make new music. It is not easy task to find same quality as Labyrinth's "Return To Heaven Denied" album. What Orion Riders have achieved on A New Dawn is getting closer to the Labyrinth's masterpiece. Good job for Orion Riders guys!

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Orpheo - Echoes
Independent Release
(2005)

First of all, this is my big pleasure to introduce and write a review about Orpheo's 1st full length debut album, 'Echoes'. If you are not familiar with the name of Orpheo, you had better keep it in mind that their official 1st album sounds really superb. They are a five piece symphonic progressive hard rock band from Groningen, the Netherlands. According to the info on the internet, one of founding members and the guitar player, David Marquart Scholtz, put together to form the band in the September, 2001. They started the band as "The Jupiter Project" playing a kind of eclectic prog music in the beginning, but they have transformed into symphonic-oriented progressive hard rock band after a talented female singer, Wendelin Visser, joined the group. Eventually, they renamed the band as Orpheo to perform top-notch progressive hard music. Surely, you are going to find lots of nice moments and fantastic sounds from 'Echoes' album.

Currently, Orpheo consists of Wendelin Visser (lead vocals), David Marquart Scholtz (guitars/backing vocals), Rutger Vlek (keyboards/synth/cello/backing vocals), Anne-Krijn Piersma (drums/percussion/backing vocals), and Ruud Meijer (bass) as a new member replacing a former bass player Gerald Wolters. My first impression about the music of Orpheo is surprising and very fresh. Additionally, their approach of entire music is very dramatic, yet very catchy to my ears. I could say that Orpheo has been one of best brightest hopes from symphonic rock and prog rock scene in general. I am very impressed with the richness of melody and expressions. Each composition is brilliantly and cleverly arranged with nice sounds.

Someone might be going to ask me how I compare Orpheo to other bands, or pehaps how they sound like. Well, I guess it might be a good question, but it's very hard to pinpoint. Okay, sonically and musically, the fans of Threshold, Enchant, Ayreon, Queen, and Dream Theater would instantly get into the music of Orpheo I believe. However, I think there have many different approaches and arrangements than similarities between these bands I have mentioned. If I describe their music in my own words, I would say their music resides somewhere in the middle of symphonic hard rock and melodic prog metal. I am very sure that some prog metal fans (not all of them, of course), who do not usually pay attention to symphonic rock bands, are going to enjoy the music that has been created by Orpheo big time, as if they give a chance to the music of 'Echoes'. On the other hand, I am also guessing that some symphonic rock music fans, who never tried out prog metal bands, would enjoy Orpheo's music as well.

Okay, let's delve into the group and the music of Orpheo's 'Echoes' deeply. One of strongest and attracting points of this groups is Wendelin Visser's great vocal performance. She conveys and delivers very melodic and dramatic phrases everywhere. Her projection of voice and singing is very strong and really clean. I am sure that she has lots of confidence to perform with very unique soulful and emotional voice. What I mean by that is she is very different from other symphonic rock or gothic metal contemporary singers who strictly sings in operatic and higher registers. In the case of Wendelin, she has capability to sing an operatic style with R&B influenced soulful approach. What a versatile singer she is! Additionally, her vocal melody lines are able to touch every listener, and quite important ingredients to help Orpheo's music very strong and passionate. Wendelin is the one important and crucial part to get Orpheo's music going beside fantastic instrumental sections.

Instrumentally, the group mostly put the emphasis on melodic structures of the songs, and Wendelin's vocal lines are definitely focused and featured mainly...that's their primal target and goal for their music. Nevertheless, they have lots of that parts constantly changings in epic-style symphonic long pieces, and getting really intensified in the section of interplays and solo spots. Orpheo keeps the fairly good balance between song-oriented parts and instrumentally technical sections that I really enjoy. For instance, Rutger Vlek's keyboard works and solo spots are mesmerizing and very excellent for both symphonic prog fans and prog metal fans to enjoy. He knows how to make dramatic atsmospheres and prog tranquility feeling. I would say keyboard fans keep his works in future reference. He's become one of best young symphonic prog keyboard players whose expression and performance is peculiar.

In addition, the rest three members, guitarist David Marquart Scholtz, drummer/percussionist Anne-Krijn Piersma, and bass player Gerald Wolters, are also important foundation for the group to pull off powerful and energetic phrasings, interplays, and rhythm section. With Rutger's keyboard works, David, Anne-Krijn, and Gerald help to create and perform  somewhat hard prog and prog metal  sounds in warm sound production. For listeners who are big fans of technical instrumentation like me, yes Orpheo also sometimes get into bombastic sections and complex and intricate instrumentations in epic songs like "Remorse" and "Phoenix Down (Release Me)", for instance, that sound superbly fantastic.

What makes being curious about them more is that the band members put the emphasis on chorus works. Most bands rely on samplers or tapes while playing live, but Orpheo has an ability to pull off chorus works in the live situation as long as I listen to the music from 'Echoes'. What else can I add? I can go on talking about this album all day If I want to. Okay, at last, but not least to mention just a few before leaving. listening to this album for review this time is a pure pleasure and BIG joy. Just take time to listen this album with open-minded for you out there. Every song featured on 'Echoes' is like a hidden treasure to get revealed to all prog fans and even melodic hard rock/metal music lovers as well. Having already listened to this album for more than several times, every song gets better and better because the quality of sounds and musical contents are very nice to my ears. Wo!, please do not get me wrong with me, I do not get any bribes from them. This is my solely honest opinion coming out from my gutts :-)

Okay, I especially recommend that you had better try the crucial and excellent tracks like "Ease Is Nowhere Near", "Remorse", "Phoenix Down (hey, what a big achievement on this one!)", and "Outside In (features a short Japanese female monologue excerpts from a Japanese anime, but I do not recall the title of that anime right now". You'll never get disappointed. Yeah, obviously I am very satisfied with their music, production, and everything presented here. It's really great accomplishments for them to release such a fantastic debut album, and hard to believe this is independent production done by themselves, mixed by Ruter himself, and their fellow enginners.

Wow Wow! I keep my eye on this band's activity and new album in the future. I really wish all the best for Orpheo, and definitely highly recommended to all visitors of my website. I am very sure that their music would capture various music fans out there, esp., prog rock/metal fans can not miss them dearly. It's very interesting phenomenon to see that the Netherlands has been producing and offering very best quality groups and musicians in every aspect. (Before closing the review article, I'd like to say Thanks a million to Akka, David, Rutger, Wendelin, and Red Floor! for your kindness and everything)

[official website: http://www.orpheo.nl/]
[contact: info@orpheo.nl ]

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O.S.I. - Office of Strategic Influence
InsideOut
(2003)

New prog metal super project of drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), guitarist Jim Matheos (Fates Warning), and keyboardist Kevin Moore (Chroma Key) who mainly sings on all songs with guest appearances of bassist Sean Malone (Gordian Knot) and Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree). As long as you see the names of Dream Theater members, you might jump to the conclusion that O.S.I. is another DT/LTE inspired technical prog metal. However, this project's focus is not quite on intricate side of progressive metal. Yes, there are some complex moments, but most tunes have some atmospheric keyboard and riff-oriented moody and atmospheric prog metal with nice layers and loops of synth/piano created by Kevin Moore. Yeah, you might say that O.S.I. sounds heavier version of Chroma Key, due to Kevin Moore's many credits/inputs. In addition, intense Mike Portnoy's drumming has Dream Theater-ish powerful rhythm, and Jim Matheos' moody guitar phrasings with Fates Warning flavor. What O.S.I. makes interesting is that O.S.I. offers new definition and fresh air to prog metal music that seem to be dominated by technical prowess and complex ensembles. Since O.S.I.'s new album got released, people debate that this is fantastic or this is really controversial album that seems difficult to appreciate. Either way, O.S.I.'s album is one of most crucial prog metal/rock albums in 2003. Limited edition of O.S.I. include the cover version of Pink Floyd - Set The Control for The Heart of The Sun and Neil Young's piece with medley of their original demo materials.

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Oxygene8 - Poetica
Independent Release
(2003)

From Arizona, United States of America, Oxygene8 is melodic progressive rock project consisting of Linda Cushma (vocals, midi Chapman Stick, guitar synth and loops), Frank DfAngelo (midi electric guitar, guitar synth, and loops), with help of their friends, Primus drummer Tim Alexander. Poetica features several melodic oriented proggy tunes and experimental instrumentals. Musically, their style reminds me of a cross between King Crimson and Gordian Knot. Even though they do not go over too wild wacky instrumental works, Linda and Frank are really confident players who show enough complexity on the album of Poetica. Personally, I want to hear more about their song-oriented materials, because those songs featuring Linda's voices are really attractive to fans of female singers. In addition, I am also impressed with Tim Alexander's powerful and intelligent drumming. Occasionally, they added some kind of experimental approach with using loops and guitar synth. Although this is independent release, the sound production is pretty well and mastered by Ty Tabor of King's X If my memory is correct. Normally, I do not listen to modern prog rock bands very often. But Oxygene 8's music is also appealing to my ears like other music that I am into. Personally, I like the tunes of "Larryfs Lullaby", "Mocha Butterfly", "Hold on", and "Cathedral" from the second half of Poetica album. As you listen to their music very closely, these people are using quite unique instruments. Linda Cushma does not only sing, but she controls and play Chapman Stick, which seems to be quite complicated to perform. Due to using lots of Chapman Stick and atmospheric effects coming from guitar synth and loops, there are lots of modern King Crimson moments that keep me interested. In addition, Frank D' Angelo is also using original custom interesting guitars that sound really unique and untypical with really nice performing. Overall, this is really ambitious and original sounding progressive, yet atmospheric experimental music without going too crazy parts. Just like their band's name, their music does not rely on technicality or complexity, yet their creation and music come naturally from their honest hearts. I hope they will keep searching their own voice and music to create another interesting materials in the near future. You know that my online reviews seem geared toward progressive metal and complex music (sometimes too much??, hehe just kidding), but we really need to pay attention to independent artists/musicians who are working hard to make interesting original music with nice melodic music. Oxygene8 is one of them. I start digging their fresh sounds and unique approach. Go check out their website and soundfiles. If you are interested in them, ask them for Poetica :-)
[website: http://www.oxygene8.com/]
[contact: oxygene8@paxway.com]

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