The size of a band doesn’t always correlate to the “size” of their music. The British rock band Black Orchid Empire does have a pretty significant following, but they’re not at the level of some of the more massive arena rock acts like, say, Foo Fighters or Biffy Clyro. That doesn’t mean their music, while being fully their own and not sounding the same as other groups, isn’t at about the same level, though.
Black Orchid Empire’s new album Yugen defines itself with some really heavy, dynamic rock. The band rests very squarely on the melodic side of the spectrum as opposed to the “noise” side, and it works very well.
The vocals from Paul Visser really work, too. Yugen sounds like he’s trying to sing and sing well, and he really pulls it off. Sometimes vocalists working in heavy music are going for a broader or different goal than that of being an accessible singer, but Visser sounds like he’s going quite squarely for singing, and he manages it beautifully while effectively maintaining the force necessary to keep up with his band’s music.
He at times shares some truly memorable imagery via his vocals, which are often more than just forgettable vague sentiments. “This little prison is a fortress we all built and nobody wants to leave,” he sings on the track “Celebrity Summer.” It sticks with you.
Pairing his strong-but-pleasant vocals with the harshly heavy-yet-melodic music makes for an intriguing sonic experience. The melodic element of the heavy rock attaches to the vocals well and gives them something to hold on to.
Overall, Yugen has a big, broad sound that really works both specifically when it comes to the music and overall when it comes to the presentation of the band. Yugen is at times perhaps a lot to take in sonically, but it’s a rock album; that’s what’s supposed to happen. It’s got lots of energy, but it’s nuanced and fitting and not overwhelming.
The album could be described as cinematic because of how broad and forceful it is. Another fitting way to describe it might be orchestral sounding, because the band packs so much into their sound into this record in an awe-inspiring fashion. Yugen sounds at times like something greater than the creation of just three guys and their instruments.
The members of Black Orchid Empire have really done something rather attractive here, and if you are a fan of rock and roll, you’ll like this. There’s no filler.