Chicagoan quartet Ormen Lange (probably named after the mightiest Viking longship, not the natural gas field on the Norwegian continental shelf) are far from a unique band--how many lightly progressive sorta instrumental artists can you name off the top of your head? Probably enough to feel as disillusioned as I. But despite my admitted jadedness with the genre, I still found Black to be an enjoyable, if unoriginal, album.
Ormen Lange's variety of rock draws a lot from stoner and post-rock, balancing the long instrumental buildups with psychedelia reminiscent solos and a huge, hard rock aesthetic. Every piece on the album drools with grungy power and coarseness, sounding as loud and fresh as the hardest from the classic rock era. Deep, chuggy riffs and hard-hitting intensity, both of which feel hard and powerful up through the very end, are broken up with sparse and effectively mellow interludes (all of which are titled "Lude", which I presume is a shortening of "interlude" and not the slang reference to methaqualone pills). It can't be denied that Ormen Lange know how to write an effective piece of music.
The thing is that, on close examination, there's nothing really inventive about Black--a lot of the songs follow the same pattern (unassuming introduction, development and buildup, psychedelic solo, interlude track), and none of their ideas are remotely original. Even a few of the riffs sound like they've been used elsewhere (I'm pretty sure I've heard bits and pieces from "Precious Blood" on a Long Distance Calling album before). There's no escaping the fact that this is an album we've heard several times over.
But for every comment I make about it's staid nature, Ormen Lange seem to deliver an equally brilliant moment--the stoner rock solo on "Blackhorse" is straight up mind blowing, and the hard hitting buildup leading into "1 v. 100" is crushingly powerful. Despite my best efforts to harp on the negatives, Ormen Lange's best moments have a habit of overshadowing their less than stellar ones, meaning that Black yet leaves an overall positive impression.
You'll be hard off not to recognize the weaker parts of this album for what they are, but Ormen Lange are no doubt a capable band, and, if nothing else, Black is an enjoyable, adequately worthwhile diversion. Fans of post-ish instrumental rock, semi-stoner drones, or Viking legends should give this very powerful album a listen.
Recommended if you like: Long Distance Calling, Russian Circles, Royal Thunder
6.0 / 10
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