Label: Suicide Records Release date: 18 September 2020
Orochen hail from Göteborg, Sweden, and label themselves as post-industrial neo-folk, or simply post-folk if one is short on space. The quartet’s roots come from a unique variety of genres, with a focus on americana, indie, and sludge. They also take cues from fellow artists in the Swedish post-metal scene, Cult of Luna being a major inspiration. Orochen differs from their peers by having clear (though not always easily interpreted) vocals, produced with a slight Southern twang. This clarity and raspy softness juxtapose their lyrics, which are often political and scathing even if dreamily muttered. Speaking of politics, the band name’s origin is a Chinese shamanistic hunter-gatherer tribe that has become victim to modern assimilation. Oroqen (or Orochen) translates to “reindeer herders,” making the Oroqen analogous to the Sami people of Scandinavia.
The band’s first EP, the self-titled Orochen, was released in 2017 and has a rather light folksy sound to it. Their second EP, Mechanical Eyes, came out earlier this year. This release showed further development to their sound, putting sinister indie-esque vocals over practically medieval guitar riffs. Still very new, but determined to make a name for themselves, Orochen now releases their third EP, Thylacine.
Chaotic drum clashes open the album with Burial Mounds, a previously released single, and an immediately obvious post-rock auditory smear. Jonas Mattsson’s indie vocals and a folksy beat blend beautifully here. They work nicely beneath warbling guitars and drums that constantly threaten to take over. Drift Away is very tribal in nature, leading in with monotonous and hollow drum beats and Mattsson’s deeper, rumbling vocals. Soon, Mattsson’s brighter rasp returns, the music behind him seemingly evolving along with him. Riffs become more full-bodied, faltering momentarily but quickly returning with a sound both ancient and not of this world.
A short excerpt from a speech dealing with religion and the afterlife introduces Inside the City. Chugging drums and lost, lingering guitars back this track, Mattsson’s vocals almost audibly sad before building to a sludgy bite. Harmonies and Mattsson’s own vocals often get swallowed up in the sharply crying guitars and eventually die out. In the end, they are replaced by more of the speech from the beginning.
The final track on the album is The Jonestown Deathtape. To create this piece, Orochen enlisted the vocal assistance of Alex Stjernfelt (Novarupta, Ex-Mr Death, Ex-Moth Gatherer). The first half of the track is another speech, the fuzz of age and ambient sounds muffling its words. Knowledgeable listeners might recognize Jonestown as the place a massive murder-suicide of over 900 cult followers occurred in 1978. Indeed, the speech here is of Jim Jones’ last speech before taking part in the Jonestown Massacre. The clearest words are the last: “You can’t take all those people and kill them without expecting a violent reaction”. Immediately after, the track explodes into something significantly heavier than previous entries. Stjernfelt’s low growls harmonize amazingly well with the plaintive whines of the guitars. There is little time to appreciate this, however, as the track ends as quickly as it started. So too is this EP quick to end, disappointment becoming hope for a future EP or even a full album.
Thylacine is named after the now extinct marsupial, its species killed off predominantly by human intervention and hunting. Even the last thylacine, held captive in the 1930s, died from weather exposure due to the carelessness of human caretakers. This feels like a metaphor not only for what Orochen tells through their music but also of humanity in general. Humans refuse to let things be, whether by intentional harm or uprooting flora and fauna to “save” it. Because of this, humans are slowly destroying the planet. Orochen wants people to know this, and to listen to nature and the indigenous peoples who understand it.
Well-educated readers might scoff at being told to purchase or consume something that so strongly speaks out against capitalism. However, it’s important to remember that there is no ethical consumption under capitalism. So until it falls, enjoy the music and help a new band flourish by picking up a copy of Thylacine.
- Jonas Mattsson – Vocals, guitar
- Emil Gustavsson – Guitar
- Rasmus Lindblom – Bass
- Hampus Olsson – Drums
- Burial Mounds
- Drift Away
- Inside the City
- The Jonestown Deathtape