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Ogre : Thrice As Strong

US trio Ogre return with a gloomy yet lively blend of old-school '70s Trad Doom, Stoner and Rock influences.

Ogre brings a great blend of late '70s classic Doom vibe with a bluesy Rock'n'roll feel on 'Thrice As Strong', their fifth full length album and first to be released under the Cruz Del Sur Music banner. Listening to Ogre for the first time with this latest release a few things became clear to me. First, it is no surprise that Ogre comes from the East coast, they harbor a grimy, surly edge that draws influences from East coast Doom pioneers like The Obsessed and Pentagram. Second, I don't know where I've been or I don't know where Ogre has been, but somehow we haven't crossed paths until now and that's a shame. On the upside though, at least I have some homework to catch up on with their previous four releases. Third, I would bet money that Ogre is a fantastic band live. When I saw Monolord for the first time a few years ago at the Empty Bottle in Chicago (yes, my ears are still ringing) I came to the realization that there are some bands who are better at recording music - excelling in the studio, and there are other bands who are great live. Monolord have great albums. Live however, they felt like Showbiz Pizza's Rock-afire Explosion was reskinned with jet lagged, hippy, mustachioed Swedes. They sounded good enough but there was no spark live, stale automatons.

I feel like Ogre's music is tailor-made to be digested live, with their rugged, weather-beaten sound. Their songs need to be rattling your rib cage; blasting in your headphones just doesn't seem like it does their music justice. Some music needs to be felt and experienced, not just heard. That is not necessarily a negative strike against this album, I just have a sneaking suspicion that the best medium and vehicle for Ogre's sound is not an album on the turntable, but rather a band on the stage. I would love an opportunity to prove or disprove my theory. Having said all that, let's have a look at the album and see what lies within.

Musically, 'Thrice As Strong' leans on heavy, bluesy Rock rhythms that propel the songs forward, giving them drive and purpose. Ogre then overlays the rhythm with a lugubrious Sabbathian sorrow through the use of minor chords and trills. It has a galloping, equine charge that is well ridden by riffs, snail like tempo changes and other elements of classic Doom.

One of the first things that I took note of shortly after dropping the needle, was their lead singer Ed Cunningham's voice. His vocals draw an undeniable parallel with AC/DC's late Bon Scott. As a baseline, Cunningham's scratchy, tight throated voice and delivery is very similar. Their are differences of course. I feel like Cunningham's is a bit more dynamic and versatile as he tries different outbursts and punctuations throughout the album. 'Hive Mind' lets Cunningham growl forth with more grit then Scott would have. Bon Scott's singing was always a bit more level and consistent, but what Scott lacked in adaptability he made up for with attitude. Cunningham's vocals have an edge and bristly coarseness, but what he doesn't have is the brazenly drunk, bar room brawler, look you dead in the eye, Australian f* you snarl and audacity Bon Scott had that we all knew and loved. Thats OK, though. The world doesn't need more than one Bon Scott. Cunningham is not trying to be Scott, there are just vocal similarities, and they work. Cunningham is more bark and Scott was more bite.

'Blood Of Winter' kicks off with an atmospheric wind sound effect that makes way for a vintage guitar with a slow, stone stepping, doomy riff akin to old Witchcraft. It starts off right but sadly outlives its welcome a bit. Ogre at the 5 minute mark reaches for a mid song tempo shift that seems unnecessary. The song doesn't need it, no reason to expound on what's working already. They should have chosen to break the genre prescribed conventions of writing lengthy songs and made the tune into a 5 minute, palatable crowd pleaser. Trim the fat and give us the good stuff. The song holds up, but it could have been better.

Ogre also isn't afraid to reach for touchstones of other subgenres in Doom metal. 'King Of The Wood' calls upon a Cisneros style, naked, stand alone, swingy guitar riff out front that lights the path for the rest of the instruments to fall inline behind it. A phasey, submerged guitar, marching and rolling drums, and enough cowbell to make Christopher Walken proud, round out a dank blend of Stoner Doom and Rock.

It sounds like Ogre is having fun and it comes across in this album. They have excavated a riff crusted blues sound from the '70s that although dated, is still a joy to listen to, bringing a bit of a new fervor and zeal to a well established sound. It's an old heart but it's still beating with fresh blood provided by Ogre. 'Thrice As Strong' has peppered in enough Rock'n'roll upbeat ingredients to keep the music lively yet misted with a heavy gloom. If you miss the feel of bellbottoms, and the smell of Hai Karate, this fun, heavy yet user friendly, doomy blend is just what you are looking for.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. The Future
2. Hive Mind
3. Big Man
4. Judgement Day
5. Blood Of Winter
6. King Of The Wood
7. Cyber-Czar

Duration : Approx. 44 minutes

Visit the Ogre bandpage.

Reviewed on 2020-08-03 by Chris Murray
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