Orochen - Anthroposcenic

28 Aug 2022 - Gene

Neo-Folk, Post Metal | Suicide Records | Release date: 27 May 2022

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Unlikely, unexpected, and not to be overlooked, Anthroposcenic pursues an unworn path to aural enlightenment, paved with scathing social commentary and unforgettable hooks. Put Orochen on your ’top new artists to watch’ list!

Admittedly, I had forgotten about Orochen in the nearly two years since Thylacine, despite the strong impression it made on me, and despite the moderate lengths I went through to secure a reasonably-priced copy of that double 7” EP (overseas shipping and all: you know the pain). And although I spun that record a dozen or so times that year, I must also admit to an expectation bias based on practically nothing. What I expected was pitch black, tortured, unforgiving. But what I got was much more nuanced than expected. Perhaps more nuanced than desired, myself helplessly mired in Black Metal’s impenetrable despair, at the time.

Now, that isn’t to say Anthroposcenic is an upbeat affair. In fact, the album follows Thylacine’s bleak poeticism, capitalist-bashing cynicism, keenly cautious humanism to the number. But it does so in a way that is accessible and inviting… dare we say catchy? Yes, this album is unreasonably catchy. Does that go against every promise I imagined to myself it would fulfill – to say again: based on next to nothing? Not in the least. I would even argue those qualities make it a singular experience that is unlikely to fade into the obscurity of numbers.

My impression of the band is that a bunch of Folk-rockers got their minds blown open at Roadburn and started getting into Post-Metal or perhaps vice-versa? Feel free to enlighten me on the order of operations. Regardless, there is this electrifying impression of two worlds coming together seamlessly. Most of the runtime is anchored by the kind of twangy finger-picking and martial drum fills you might find on mid-period Woven Hand (you can bash me later for briefly mistaking Orochen for an American band, despite actually knowing they were Swedes, but that banjo is just so hauntingly authentic, the verbose, often incongruous lyricism indicating a history of heartland woes). In particular, the momentous closer, ”Rat King” comes to mind, while simultaneously most of the tracks skew Post-Metal: special mention owed here to the sweetly evil touch offered midway by ”Convalescence”, sadly the only track to feature the grizzled growl of Wormwood’s Nine. Not-so-secretly, this was the despondent hellscape I was looking forward to. Am I so wrong to want more of the same? Countryman, Jonas Stålhammar of At The Gates is also featured on record, and further reinforces Orochen’s extensive connections in the extreme metal scene. Which is, in part, why I was so surprised by the general reserve Orochen have exercised here.

And this leads me to my only criticism, really. Anthroposcenic struggles to fulfill its own potential (or is it the potential I blindly assigned to it?). I would like to see it go further, to push into those edgeless, bleak vistas, while hedging its bets with that sweet folksy fretwork. Orochen refers to itself as a ’collective’ due to its collaboration with other musicians, artists, etc. And I would like to see them take those potentiates way out of bounds. Already, it is unique enough to catch the attention, eminently familiar, dripping with positive intent – its progressive messaging (Jules Verne references entirely on point) something on which many of us align.

So what do we think about the record? It’s been out a little while now (sorry, I was likely preoccupied with the collapse of democracy, the environment, and my own mental health), yeah I guess I spaced. But and so I started out by saying I forgot about it, went on to praise its singular artistry, and ended by stating it could do more. So which is it? Well, actually, I love it. This is a record that pushes and pulls, never retraces old steps, and demands you parse its many stylistic tendrils. This is everything I love about modern rock music. Maybe it was unfair to think it didn’t go far enough. Maybe it was fair to think it can and will. This is Orochen’s first full length and it holds true promise. Go have a listen and send them some well-earned props. I have no doubt we will be seeing more of them yet.