Those who are already aware of the strange vagaries of Sevillan heavyweights Orthodox may not be surprised to hear that ‘Suyo es el rostro de la muerte…’, the opening track from fifth album Axis (Alone Records), is layered with husky, mellow horns and a squealing saxophone. Despite Marco Serrato’s hulking yet dextrous bass notes and the careering, joyously expressive rhythms of Borja Diaz, the impression given by this and the bookending horns and strings of closer ‘Y a ella le sera revelado’ is of a Progressive soundtrack to a 70s US cop show, harking back more to second album Amanecer en Puerta Oscura than the Doom fest of 2011’s Baal (both Alone Records).
Having parted with long-time guitarist Ricardo Jiménez last year, this is the first album from the band as a duo, the remaining members seemingly free to indulge their panoply of influences whilst retaining that low-end core. ‘Axis / Equinox’ flings around trumpets, flutes, a sawed violin and atonal piano in a freeform chaos before allowing Serrato to intone over a quelled cacophony, while the rhythmic bass of ‘¡lo, Sabacio, lo lo!’ is graced by delightfully soaring African percussion and choruses.
Single ‘Crown For A Mole’ and the brutal ‘Canìcula’ sees the resonant boom of the band’s more sinister material return to its fullest, albeit enlivened by those syncopated structures. The mournful opening to the fearful ‘Medea’, meanwhile, is laden with Spaghetti Western-style high notes and the odd piano flurry: the subsequent crashing lead effects and cymbals haunting the slow, quaking, pummelling rhythm for what is arguably the most stirring ten minutes in Orthodox’s history. Here Serrato’s unique, warbling bellow is chilling; the roared “There’s nothing there…” ripping the soul from the body while retaining its curious melody.
It is the rhythm department, however, which produces much of the magic of Axis: blending a crushing claustrophobia with those proud Jazz influences, it is often overlooked yet it is the lynchpin of the band’s sound. The portentous groove of ‘Portum Sirenes’, for example, is dictated by bass notes that plough through the solar plexus and warp agonisingly around the loins, whilst pounding drums create mighty patterns for the hypnotic, tuneful flurries to dance through.
The whole, a meld of all manner of naturally rhythmic styles with elements of bright light and a heavy, heady horror, is the dazzling result of perfect alchemy. This most ambitiously unifying project yet is also Orthodox’s greatest statement, and affirms its status as one of the most vital bands from any genre of music.
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