Review Summary: Progressive metal at another level.
I hope I'm not the only person out there who's been patiently-but-impatiently awaiting Orbs' sophomore album after the successful experimentation employed on their initial release, Asleep Next to Science
. The dynamic, playful, and childhood, science, and space-centered album dissolved the "supergroup" albatross immediately conferred upon the band created by Dan Briggs (Between the Buried and Me), Adam Fisher (Fear Before), and Ashley Ellyllon (Abigail Williams, Cradle of Filth) and turned it into something beautiful - a grandiose prog rock album with delightfully strange lyrics.
Orbs themselves stated that part of the aim with Asleep Next to Science
was to create one of the most balls to the wall, all-out progressive rock albums conceived and recorded. If I'm the one judging (and I am), I'd say they succeeded beyond all expectations. But, with such success, the next question on the mind of listeners, fans, and critics has to be: what's next?
In terms of pure experimentation and the success of the experiments employed, I think it's easy to say that Past Life Regression
easily surpasses its predecessor. The variety of sounds and dynamics on Past Life Regression
is simply on another level above its predecessor and any supposed competition. The fluid manner in which the band move from the flowery sweet chord progression of "Jaws on Repeat, Life on Hold" to the dark woods of its midsection and somehow back out into clear waters is astonishing. The flow from prog rock chaos to shipwrecked acoustic shanty to titular tremolo outro tension in "Exploded Birds" is striking and beautiful. "These People are Animals" hits with a dark and pummeling force that is somehow contrasted with a brief hit on bright chord play that's straight out of The Beatles' playbook. And that's not even the half of it. It's all chaotic, but such a wonderfully organized and carefully crafted chaos that seeing the structure of each track not only hold up, but stand out like the Golden Gate Bridge is impressive in and of itself.
This is due in no small part to the Herculean vocal athletics of Adam Fisher, who undoubtedly deserves the gold medal for most interesting lyrics and vocal delivery on every damn track on Past Life Regression
. More impressive yet, he does so while straddling structural change-ups that would easily sink a lesser man. But who else out there would write a song about getting high and watching Jaws that actually has some weird philosophical points tacked onto it? Who else would write a catchy vocal melody that both addresses the horror of catching your parents having sex and ignores the horror of catching your parents having sex altogether? Who else can rhyme "Sauvignon Blanc" and work poppy backing vocals into what's arguably the album's eeriest, darkest track in "Pecular, Isn't It?"
Truly, at times, Past Life Regression
feels like the counterpoint to All Human's Teenagers, You Don't Have to Die!
- the heavy and technical yin to Teenagers
' somber and contemplative yang. And as far as I'm concerned, there's everything to love about that. Of course, if you come into Past Life Regression
expecting the playful, youthful spirit and lyrics that dotted Asleep Next to Science
, you may be surprised that Past Life Regression
takes a darker bent. The lyrical content is more serious on the whole, focusing on themes of sex, gender, love, philosophy, and reincarnation - though parts of "Jaws" and "Exploded Birds" among others still maintain some of the childish zaniness that was so infectious on Orbs' debut. The musical content is often more sinister to complete the experience, with retro sci fi keyboard ambiance and biting, low-end guitars driving the point home. Naturally, quirky vocal phrasing, shimmering piano arpeggios, and proggy guitar leads still dot the album to impressive effect, but there's much more of a discord and malaise to Past Life Regression
than on the group's previous effort.
The only real knock against Past Life Regression
is that its ambition and experimentation make for an incredibly varied album. While each and every track on the album is truly wonderful and engaging and most (if not all) are (loosely) tied together by a theme of reincarnation, said variety costs the band in flow from track to track. Some may also find the vocals of Fisher not to be a fit for them - they're definitely an acquired taste, but one that's so unique and flavorful I find that hardly anything else compares.
But minute gripes about album cohesion aside, Past Life Regression
is a sophomore release well worth the six year wait. I'm hard-pressed to think of another act out there creating music this unique, quirky, and twisted with any semblance of the level of talent Orbs possess. I only hope it doesn't take another six years for the group to release their next masterpiece. But I'll wait as long as I need to as long as the result keeps pushing the limits as hard as Past Life Regression