Review Summary: The final frontier.
Here’s a heads up: this is an album that is so intimately otherworldly that you can basically hear the planets and stars exploding in the background of each song. To pin it down as descriptively as humanly possible, it’s entirely like shoving a nebula into your ear, getting a headache (I wonder why?) and enjoying it anyways because nothing is cooler than having parts of outer space inside your ***ing head.
And if you’re uncomfortable with the concept of that, this album isn’t going to benefit you much and you’re better off not even reading this. I’d also recommend not going to space.
. Orbs. Here we have what we’ve learned to call a supergroup
: this here classification really is the only negative thing I’m going to say in this review. Compromised of members from Between The Buried and Me, Fear Before, Abigail Williams and Nightbear, it’s almost as if the term “supergroup” is a bit of an understatement in the case of Orbs. Giving Dan Briggs (BTBAM) a guitar, getting Adam Fisher (Fear Before) to sing/wretch/whine and perhaps most importantly, getting Ashley Ellylon (Abigail Williams/Cradle of Filth) to contribute her keyboard sorcery to the mix sounds like a pretty good idea, no? Yeah, you see, before Orbs had even started writing their first material, it was almost completely given that whatever they touched would turn into gold
or, at the very least, some sort of awesome element with an insufferably latin sounding name. Something scientific! Something so intellectually nutty that it’d actually seem at home alongside the inane stream-of-conscious lyrical content that barely out-nerds the spacey, progressive music it accompanies. Now just, if you will, imagine
what kind of music the collection of these artists could make together. Got a rough idea? Alright, now imagine if the band was writing those songs in a spacecraft somewhere outside of our galaxy while copulating with biologists. That’s what Asleep Next to Science
truly sounds like but even moreso
. It’s senseless, it’s indulgent, it’s technical, it’s atmospheric as hell -- or as Fisher maniacally shouts/rants on ‘Megaloblastic Madness’: “I bet this makes sense to a physicist; to me it’s a whole lot of nonsense!
On a compositional level, Briggs’ settles brilliantly into the role of guitar-ing on the album, and his identity as a riff-writer is as far removed from that of his Between the Buried and Me band-mates as possible (which will undoubtedly please detractors of all things wank). Favoring a 90’s-esque fuzzy distortion (ridden with delay, mind you) over anything distinctly metallic, Briggs’ tone is only a small player in the shaping of his atmospheric sound -- through the use of a seemingly endless library of effects and tasteful leads, Briggs’ favors dynamic and team-playing over showiness, something that really forwards the cohesiveness of Orbs’ sound. The one exception to the rule, however, is the gargantuan 14-minute closer ‘Eclipsical’, and I promise you, it is quite
the track. In both the clean and jamming sections, ‘Eclipsical’ leans as close to BTBAM territory as Adam Fisher would likely ever let it. After five minutes of classy Orbsy meandering (which I will describe in a moment), the band shifts gears into superprog mode quite suddenly; churning out classic rock riffs (think Yes with double bass), weird keyboard patches, nutso time signatures and particularly astounding guitar and keyboard solos. The entire jam moment is one of the most memorable moments on the album for two reasons -- a) it sounds freaking awesome, and b) this is the only overtly and ridiculously technical passage on the album, therefore eliminating the threat of an album chalk full of noodling. Restraint is a beautiful tool, and Orbs know it - this is why the shock value of ‘Eclipsical’ is so rewarding.
The aforementioned “orbsiness” is more than an applicable term, given that the sound Orbs have adopted is entirely unique. Ashley Ellylon’s presence on the keyboard is glaringly obvious (in the best way possible) and really helps attribute to the “spacey-ness” of the record. Whether it’s her layered synth arpeggios on the intro of ‘Man of Science’ or the overwhelmingly powerful piano outro of ‘Sayer of the Law’, Ellylon never lets up throughout the entire album and adds more presence and atmosphere to the record than you could fit in all of Saskatchewan. But despite Briggs’ and Ellylon’s prowess (drummer Clayton Holyaok and bassist Chuck Johnson are no slouches either), the most inarguably defining asset of Orbs is Fear Before vocalist Adam Fisher. Whether he’s tearing his vocal chords to shreds on the delightfully heavy ‘Lost At Sea’, sounding like a prepubescent gremlin on ‘People Will Read Again’ or just plain irritating the crap out of you with his whiny, juvenile voice on any given track, Fisher really is the deal breaker on Asleep Next to Science
. Luckily for Orbs, in the rare case of the band’s outlandish attention to climaxes and dynamic/atmosphere, they couldn’t have chosen a more suitable vocalist. His tortured and arguably dweeby voice perfectly suits the frenetic and demented lyrics. Sounding almost entirely maniacal throughout the entire record (“Keep your hands in the vehicle at all times, for if you don’t I’m going to rip them right off!
”), you’ll hear Fisher wretch, panic, yelp, screech and even roar. And although it might be grating at first, I can almost guarantee you’ll have trouble not falling in love with him by the end of a few listens. Not really in the same way you first fell in love with Regina Spektor but more in the way you love your creepy paedophile uncle who put those delectable ice-lollies in your knickers all those years ago. It may have creeped you out, yes, but you’re never going to forget the experience, nor will you forget the uncomfortably awesome voice of Fisher.
Truth be told, when ‘Eclipsical’s frantic final notes fade out, you’re not going to forget much. Sure, on first listen, you might only be able to recall a lot of spacey riffs and dweeby vocals but you’re going to want to lick your fingers and hear it again. And again. Doubt me not! And while your fingers will be perpetually damp with the finger-lickin’ beauty of Asleep Next to Science
, be reminded that it’s not a savoury taste but a collection of exotic and kind of irritating aural spices. So, maybe drink a glass of Norah Jones milk to wash the taste away but enjoy the flavour
. And if you’re assuming I’m on crack (yep) or that I really don’t know when to draw the line with these weird space and milk metaphors, you should probably listen to the album. All I ask is that you just be open to weird