Review Summary: Orion concede too much to a vocal presence and, in doing so, lose a sharp edge they once held in a crowded metal underground.
It's sad to say, but the Orion of All This World Means
can only marginally be considered the same band that released the refreshingly ambient-yet-heavy EP Where Whales Go To Die
last year. There are still breakthrough instrumental moments where it's apparent that this is the same group, but the addition of vocalists Tyler Houghton and Nathan Hayes has very obviously shifted the dynamic of the group towards a much
more mainstream djent approach. The talent is still bold enough to merit consideration, but the paradigm shift towards more conventional structures with a focus on low-end can easily leave a bad taste in the mouths of those who were salivating for more of the sound heard on Where Whales Go To Die
Once a solitary butterfly presenting a subtler approach to the architecture of bombast and groove by interlacing it with ambiance and mid-range melody, it feels as if the addition of vocals has cheapened the sound. In lieu of breaks for slow acoustic chimes to coalesce over long, low waves of bass, we're greeted by a mix of common deathcore screams over uptempo syncopated rhythms. While these rhythms, varied and scattered, felt like a welcome respite on the previous album, the monotone forefront growl of Hayes on All This World Means
seems to roll over and consume the creativity that was once contained therein. Houghton's performance, on the other hand, is more difficult to decry. His high, atmospheric vocals (most comparable to those of Dan Tompkins) seem to provide a keen ambient element that enhances the music, or at least does no harm to it.
Of course, the real issue isn't so much that the vocal performances are bad. Honestly, there's nothing wrong with even the screaming performance on this album, except that it sounds just like the performance on any any other djent release this year with screamed vocals. The real issue is that a band who were once hard to compare with any other band in the realm of djent, progressive metal, or post metal - a band who had meticulously crafted an innovative release - have allowed themselves to lose that edge so that they could conform around vocalists and, in doing so, have become "just another djent band."
On the upside, when the prominent guitar hooks come around (see the beginning of "Epiphany"), they still have a bit of the same charm Where Whales Go To Die
had, and many of the deep, rhythmic grooves are still mosh-worthy, if moderately less intelligent in design. Instrumental tracks like "Contours" (which borrows its most intriguing lead line from predecessor "Surface"), "Relatively Minor," and "Futurorum" display some extended flashes of why Orion once seemed a stand-out among those seeking to rejuvenate the low Metal sound. But even there, much of the post-rock flair that gave Where Whales Go To Die
its character is long gone, a seeming sacrifice to the gods of vocally structured music.
If you're a real die-hard for fairly well-executed djent with some glints of something more, All This World Means
is probably enough for you. But if you've heard the way this group's potential was directed before changing things to account for vocals, it's hard to be anything but frustrated and disappointed with this record. Orion are better than this barely above-average outing. It's as pure and simple as that.