Sevillan duo Orthodox are respected in underground Metal circles as a Progressive Doom outfit. The band, however, see themselves as much more than the descriptors would suggest. From a chilly quadrant in Salford, Marco Serrato and Borja Diaz talk about their first tour of the UK, their transition from a trio to a duo, and the influences that vary their sound ahead of their as-yet-untitled fifth full-length, due in November.
“We have played Birmingham before, around 2008 and 2011; but this is our first full tour of the UK” states drummer Borja. “Here, we are playing five shows as Orthodox, and another with our other project, a free improvisation group called Sputnik Trio. Some people seem to have enjoyed us, but it’s not been too crowded so far: we’ve played in front of about 40 people in both London and Birmingham. England is sometimes a hard place for a small band as you have many big bands, and a busy gig culture compared to ours in Spain.”
The guys are still getting used to being without their former guitarist and founder member Ricardo Jiménez, who left the band last year after a decade of playing together. “It feels strange, and we miss him” reflects vocalist / bassist Marco, “But if we were still a trio we wouldn’t be here today. Ricardo is a schoolteacher, and could no longer play as often as we wanted to as he has other priorities. There were creative differences also, and these two things meant we had to part. It’s painful for both sides: I’ve known him since school, we have children who are friends with each other: but we are still friends.”
The band’s last album, Baal (Alone Records), was a more traditionally Doom-based outing than their previous three albums, and the duo have mixed feelings about it: “After two steps forward, Baal was a step backwards”, opines Borja, “though it was absolutely deliberate. We were so energised after our third album Sentencia (Alone Records), and a number of festivals wanted us including Roadburn. We have to write tunes that we can play live as a duo and a trio, as we usually require trumpets, horns, and all kinds of things, and many venues don’t pay us what we need to provide the extra musicians.”
“If we had money, we could afford to tour and show all the faces of Orthodox”, laments Marco. “Sadly, we will probably lose money even from this tour. People have this impression of us as a schizophrenic force that plays Metal, and we have managed to put this together in Seville where people can see how one thing speaks to another, a kind of Pink Floyd mentality, an organic flow from one thing to another. We like both Metal and Jazz, and like to incorporate the two. We both feel that our second album, Amanecer en puerta oscura (Alone), is the album which most represents our core. Baal is definitely our ‘Metal’ album!”
So how do Orthodox describe Orthodox? “Everything”, states Marco somewhat arcanely. “Sometimes I still feel like that teenager who listened to Sodom and Sacred Reich, but I listen to many things and I’m tired of some of the stupid clichés that are often given in underground metal. You need freedom. I don’t feel offended when people call us a Doom band: I understand that people need labels, and as a point of departure maybe it’s correct. When we first started out we had bands like Cathedral and Sunn O))) in mind, but there’s more to our sound. I can probably identify more with Earth because they play slower and with hard riffs, but they think in ideas. I don’t connect so much with, say, Reverend Bizarre, which is a cool band but a little more generic. I personally am not that kind of musician!”
Both Marco and Borja are excited about that upcoming album, which recent single Crown for a Mole (Alone) indicates will be slightly more up-tempo: “There are a couple of faster songs on there”, asserts Marco. “We’ve wanted to play fast for some time. Overall, however, it is the closest album to Amanecer… that we have done. We have put all the faces together again in one album. You have the heavy stuff but you have horns, clarinets, we have a strange African-influenced song on there…we have missed a couple of things from Ricardo, like some of his crazy chords, but it sounds again like our vision.” So how is that rhythmic, sonorous balance achieved? “We play our instruments without many rules”, states Borja, “And sometimes they clash.” “When we were a trio” continues Marco, “we were three soloists playing together but there was always something happening: here we have lots of collaborations, with a guitar player, clarinetists, and saxophonists, so again we have so many different things in our sound.”
It sounds like a remarkable experience, which an Orthodox album always is. If you like your Low-end rhythms shot through with a sense of mystery, adventure, and no little beauty, this Spanish duo are most definitely worth your investigation.
WORDS BY PAUL QUINN