For all the talk of the evolution of heavy metal over the years, we often get caught up in a misconception. Not all evolution is good, and sometimes we don't want things to change. There was never anything wrong with four people walking into a studio, playing a few big riffs, and putting out a record that was never supposed to be anything more than a bit of fun. Metal loses its charm when it becomes too serious, which is why the continued renaissance of vintage-inspired bands are so welcome. Whether traditional, thrash, or in this case doom, if you write songs that are supposed to be enjoyed, everything else will fall into place.
Orchid is billed as a doom metal band, but that moniker doesn't fit what “The Mouths Of Madness” really is. The album is an amalgamation of everything metal was in its early days. The opening title track has obvious elements of doom, but it all starts with a riff that could be classic AC/DC. Going between the two feels lets the song ebb and flow, giving a bit of swing that makes it feel alive. Doom usually struggles to avoid being endlessly morose, but the approach Orchid takes doesn't let the music become so downcast as to temper the energy.
The opening riff of “Silent One” is a dead ringer for a Black Sabbath creation, and feels like something I've heard before, though I can't place where. It's the most obviously doom song yet, complete with vocals constricted just a bit to echo the sound of Ozzy. When the song makes a sudden shift into an uptempo solos section, before slowing back to the verse (this time complete with church bells), it's ripped straight from the 70's.
There's plenty of classic rock swagger to go along with the hefty riffs, injecting a dose of melody, both in the guitars and vocals, the doom revival rarely manages. Orchid abandons the sledgehammer approach, letting the music dig a bit deeper than unrelenting heaviness can achieve. It's a wise decision, especially over the course of almost an hour's worth of songs. Taking the blunt approach would have been far too much, and destroyed everything they would have been trying to do.
The album slows down a bit after those first few songs, which goes to show the limitations of the style. There's nothing wrong with songs like “Nomad” and “Mountains Of Steel”, but they don't offer either the energy or hooks of the opening salvo. Even the unexpected inclusion of piano in the latter doesn't make enough of an impact to stop the record from sagging just a bit.
The biggest problem with “The Mouths Of Madness” is that Orchid stretched out a bit too far. The record could stand to be a song or two shorter, and most of the tracks go on a bit too long. All but one song runs over five minutes, with most eclipsing six. Paring back a bit from each would have done wonders for keeping the album humming along.
But all of that being said, there's still more than enough about “The Mouths Of Madness” to recommend it. There aren't too many albums coming out with riffs that sound so much from the time when the best ones were being written. Orchid manages to sound like the 70's without drawing attention to how much influence they draw from it. It's vintage, but not a rip-off. Orchid is paying homage to the olden days the best way they know how, by writing a bunch of good old-school songs.