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Album Review

ORPHAN PROJECT
Begs the Question...

When is a Christian band not a Christian band? When friends and musicians of a faith form a band around music, that's when. Sure, their music revolves around their faith, but they can keep the message out of their music no more than can the angry keep out the anger, the heartbroken keep out the heartbreak or the protester can keep out the frustration of injustice. Christianity is, for Orphan Project, a way of life.

According to their bio, they never came together to promote Christianity or glorify God. They came together to use music as a tool to ask and answer questions. The truth, according to lead vocalist Shane Lankford, is that as an orphan, he was looking for answers. That is the key. The search for answers. That being the case, it is no big surprise that they would rely upon religion for much of their music. In fact, it could not have been more natural.

Notice that I said 'natural' and not 'organic'. There is nothing 'organic' about these guys. They toss aside the 'organic' band structure for some odd combination of very early Uriah Heep and Emerson Lake & Palmer, the glory years. with some metal head crunch thrown in for good measure. Toss in vocals a la the big hair bands of the '80s like Cinderella or Winger and you have an idea. I confess that I have not kept up with the delineation of genres (it seems at times that every band has their own), but I might classify Orphan Project metal/prog or maybe hard rock/prog. They do rely on multi-genre keyboards and intense guitar a lot and Lankford's vocals, topnotch by the way, are certainly in the metal/prog ballpark.

Still, you ask, what good is genre when a band can't play? All I can say is you obviously haven't heard Spooning Out the Sea. These guys are as solid as they come, no matter what the direction. They handle machine gun guitar and equally machine gunned drums like robots, soar into the heights as well as any band out there and crank out meatgrinder rhythms worthy of Deep Purple at the top of their game. And as far as guitar goes, the leads make you sweat--- and that doesn't count the speed runs (don't even ask... I can't hear that fast).

The tracks? Two stand out in my head, though all are impressive. To Me grinds out the rhythm with guitar and organ, vocals and lead guitar trading front man responsibilities. I can't get enough of the organ-as-rhythm, myself, and these guys pull it off like pros--- wait, they are pros. No wonder, then. The second is Spooning Out the Sea which ends the album on a total 'nother plane, slow and jazzy and with chord changes you would hardly expect. It is a stunning capper to a really fine album

It is no wonder Orphan Project is getting good press from the people you would expect, but one has to wonder why it is not being followed up in the so-called “legitimate” music press. Then again, maybe their legitimacy is on the wane. Now that I think about it, I rely more on blogs and niche sites than I do “the press” these days, anyway. Still, you would think those clowns would wake up eventually. Soon. I hope. Nah. Won't happen, and that's okay. Bands like Orphan Project will probably do better by word of mouth than any help the media could possibly give. Consider the words mouthed. If you like the harder side of rock, these guys are worth the time. And soon after that, the money. Bank on it.

An aside: Three of the tracks on Spooning Out the Sea were originally available on a four track EP titled Orphan Project II. While very similar and every bit as good, I haven't quite been able to figure out if they were re-recorded or not. One thing is sure--- they have been either remixed or remastered if not re-recorded, and worth hearing outside of the full album. The fourth track is one I will use any time I need to run a Pink Floyd purist out of a room. They do a hard rock/OP prog version of Floyd's Another Brick In the Wall Pt. 2 which has OP's fingerprints all over it. No doubt it was chosen out of respect and they do a damn fine job, but all of the PF 'purists' I know would consider any cover of a PF song a sacrilege. Reason enough to keep them out of the room in the first place, but where's the fun in that? I can't wait.

In the meantime, here is a taste of what is to come. Not much in the way of video, but a good backdrop for a great song. Thanks to j4r3du, who posted this on YouTube.




Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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