San Franciscan natives Orchid have been plugging away since 2007, releasing an EP and a full-length album before signing to Nuclear Blast last year. Their first release for their new label was a ten-inch EP entitled “Heretic”, which came fully dressed up in 70’s psychedelia and the customary Black Sabbath worship, and if you didn’t know any better you’d swear you’d seen an original 1971 copy on vinyl in some dingy backstreet record emporium – it was that convincing.
“The Mouths of Madness” doesn’t try to push the envelope any further as far as originality goes, and why should it? Good music is good music and if Orchid bring anything to the party then it’s a collection of solid proto-metal inspired tunes that touch on all the familiar bases that you know and, if we’re honest, expect from a band who wear their influences so proudly on their collective sleeve.
And those influences are never more evident than on ‘Silent One’ which is so reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s ‘Into the Void’ that they’re practically related. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it’s done very well and the main riff is just as devastating as anything that Tony Iommi, Gaz Jennings or Victor Griffin has ever come up with. Singer Theo Mindell’s vocals are obviously going to be compared to Ozzy Osbourne’s leather-lunged wail but that’s more likely down to production effects more than his actual voice, which perfectly complements the psychedelic noodlings of tracks like ‘Loving Hand of God’ and the lighter ‘See You on the Other Side’ (not the Ozzy song) without sounding like somebody doing an impression.
What this album has that “Heretic” didn’t is a sharp, less fuzzy production that gives the songs a little bit more energy. That may go against the basic nature of their more ‘recreational’ activities but it makes the songs that little bit snappier and open to repeated listens, as each successive play will reveal things that may have passed you by first time round. So while their creative influences may have stayed the same, the way they interpret them sonically has progressed a little which means that if they continue on this trajectory then Orchid may just move out from under the crowded retro-rock umbrella and shape themselves into something a little more individual. But at this moment in time, Orchid are a band to keep an eye on and “The Mouths of Madness” is a superb collection of no frills, psychedelic, 70’s-inspired hard rock that can proudly get played alongside those classic Black Sabbath and Deep Purple albums in your collection despite being forty years younger.