Tornio is a city in Finland, located at the border of Sweden (it’s like a sister-city of Sweden’s Haparanda), and at the very Northern shores of the Gulf of Bothnia. Tornio is also the location where Ordog hail from. The latter is a band that was formed at half of last decade, being named after the Hungarian word for ‘devil’. These Finnish doomsters did record and release a couple of demonstrational stuff, and five full lengths (without the compilation that covers the first demos). Their last album The Grand Wall was recorded, mixed and mastered during Winter 2015-2016 across the border (indeed in Haparanda) by Antti Lindholm (you might still know him from The Duskfall) at the Boat Island Studio, and it gets released in an edition of 500 copies via three of the best Doom-oriented labels (all of them from Russian soil!), being Frozen Light, Solitude Prod. and Moscow Funeral League.
Well, in general The Grand Wall goes on in the vein of Trail For The Broken (2014), though it might sound more powerful and intense at first listen. Actually, what these five guys (being former or current members of e.g. Cryptic Death, Darker Grounds, Nordic Necropolis or Incrost) bring is not renewing at all, but hey, you won’t hear me complaining! These guys belong to the ‘trend’ that made the Doom-Death scene ‘popular’ and ‘acceptable’ a couple of decades ago, as a counterbalance to the UK’s monopoly.
There is quite some variety, which is a fine characteristic of this approach. Ultra-heavy Doom-drones are interspersed with acoustic, symphonic, classical or operatic excerpts, as intro, intermezzo or outro, for a lengthy time, or just as a self-repeating paragraph within a chapter. Often the elements from these intermezzi reappear during the heavier parts; especially some specific keyboard melodies (performed by Jussi Harju) or (acoustic) guitar riffs are (intelligently) woven onto the bigger context.
The ‘Metal’ part, which for sure is the better part on The Grand Wall, consists of all ingredients that made, and still make, this specific genre so typifying. Riff-wise (Valtteri Isometsä), it’s like a bulldozer unstoppably storming downwards on a hill. There is a lot of melody involved, yet the rhythm remains very powerful and pounding. In a great way, these riffs get joined by massive bass parts (by Olli-Pekka ‘Opie’ Rissanen), which are decently mixed into the final result. Both rhythm guitars and bass guitars are like a tandem, in a supplementary way accompanying each other to strengthen the heaviness that makes the basic structure of all compositions. And it goes perfectly well with the lead parts of the guitar, which are traditional too (read: melancholic and atmospheric), including a progressive twist occasionally. All this gets permanently coloured (or darkened) by a huge variation in keyboard performances. For a big part, these synth lines are like painting a floating soundscape on the background, creating a dreamlike atmosphere. But sometimes they are quite astral too in essence, then again somewhat psychedelic with a certain seventies vibe. Another conventional aspect is the drum performance (by newly recruited Tapio Hautalampi), who gives the whole quite an energetic push, especially when going little faster. No experimental drum patterns, no overload on breaks and hooks; the drum parts are supportive in a powerful manner. A last characteristic element is the voice of singer (and one of the founding members) Aleksi Martikainen. His grunt is deep, very deep, in the best funereal trend. It’s like a growl coming from the belly, being scraped in the throat before being spawned out. Once in a while, Aleksi sings clean too, and I like the few blackish-oriented venom-spitting screams as well.
So, this is like a summary of ‘known’ aspects from the past (and the present). But as mentioned before, this does not necessarily need to be a disappointing or negative thing. When written and played the right way, the lack of originality, or the absence of renewing elements, might not bother. In Ordog’s case it must be accepted, for the song constructions, the execution, and the production, are solemn, dignified. Why changing a winning team, anyway. Okay, one might complain for some more bravery, or little less softness from time to time. But Ordog are not like a copycat, despite the predictability (which I do not mean in a pejoratively negative way), and they do come up with some very nice melancholic ballads. In conclusion I can honestly say that The Grand Wall is not supposed to by my all-time favourite Doom-Death release – at all. Yet still, to my (totally unimportant) opinion, I can recommend this epic release to everyone who appreciates the band’s former recordings, or to those who enjoy the (European) Atmospheric / Melancholic old-school-oriented Doom-Death scene. If you are such ‘fan’, you must give this band a try.