This third full-length album, following “The Wisdom Machine” and “Siamese God”, from the Greek quintet Need displays a complex grasp of 70s and contemporary prog metal. It comes spring-loaded with flighty melodic threads à la Dream Theater and Fates Warning. It consistently punches above its weight throwing in big hefty clumps of Nevermore-esque power rock and is never afraid to mine a rich seam of Tool-ian avant-garde quirks.
Opener “Lifeknot” emerges like some crazed dance robot before settling down into a steady switch-back between the half-time hush of the bitter verse and the lurching, rhythmic chorus. As you’d imagine with an album subtitle like “a song for home”, inevitably there is a sonic essence of the band’s homeland running throughout the music. That ethnic feel and tone comes through in spades on the 10-minute “Entheogen”, where we get a repeated and monotone mantra to chant back, middle-eastern guitar scales and instrumentation and a sashaying female top-end vocal piece.
Here, the multitude of layers from the foreground power of Jon V.’s emotive vocal, the interweaving shredded guitar work and the diverse soundscaped background are craftily-balanced, meaning these intial tracks are never overly-busy but varied enough to allow for a different focus on each listen.
The initial sections of “Symmetrape” threaten to break out into Rush or Journey at any point but Need quickly dispel any sense of a reclining into established AOR territory by throwing in a mind-blowing blast of stomp-heavy death-doom. It’s the most curious of tracks but rams home the point and beautifully focusses the mind on the screwy construction. The album soon establishes that theme and before-long the cutaways into lounge music, space-rock or funk piano begin to make a little more sense. Need seem able to integrate these niche segues with such ease, rarely lingering on them too long before returning to the spine of the track.
Critically, the album craves a key riff or vocal lick to really make Orvam stand out. “Construct” tries hardest of all by adding bite but neither that supreme wandering synth or repeated chorus line of “Time’s ticking away…” could be said to give this the necessary kick into the listener’s sub-conscious. Sadly, this almighty hour-long album also comes with an in-built tipping point. It appears when they break off for the off-putting, one-listen-only 3:26 spoken recording of existentialist psychobabble that constitutes “Hotel Oniro”.
That one piece alone will not make or break the album for you but the 18-minute title-track rock opera that follows may. Replete with vast orchestral flourishes and echoing the epic delivery of Turisas, it plods along at a doomy pace breathing heavy with a yawning vocal. It bristles, it slumps, it cracks us emotionally, it does the lot. Broken down into bite-size chunks, it would have been far more palatable and some sections will definitely strike a chord more than others.
Opening like a posessed demon and ending like the broken character art that adorns it, this monster of an album will grab you with its imaginative use of instrumentation and engaging stylistic skullduggery but, above all, its sheer honesty and range of emotional interplay. Think not of it as an album; think of it as a story, as a journey, as a song for home.
(7.5/10 John Skibeat)