London-based rockers Black Orchid Empire are flying the flag for the concept of ‘DIY music’ – whereby bands control every part of the music creation process. Indeed, not content with being one of the best new UK bands out there, they also run their own label and studio.
The trio of Paul Visser (vocals and guitar), Dave Ferguson (bass and backing vocals) and Billy Freedom (drums) define their music as “Melody. Power. Beauty. Ferocity” and these four words come across in abundance in debut album Archetype.
The album showcases the band’s uncanny ability to blend melodic hooks with big fat dirty riffs, with the end result being a slew of catchy rock brilliance. We spoke to lead singer Visser this week to find out more about the band, their process and the debut album.
He told us: “The most important thing about our creative process is that it’s DIY. We do everything from writing to recording to production, right up until it’s ready to go to mastering. It’s great to have the luxury to do this, but it can be challenging at times because all responsibility rests on us. We do love the challenge though!
“We all met playing in a previous band called Cape Fear. It was great fun, we did some amazing shows. But when our guitarist left, we re-evaluated whether the music we were playing really defined us – and felt it didn’t. BOE came about from the three of us jamming in our rehearsal space and playing whatever we wanted. Before we knew it, we were a new band.”
Archetype is a superb rock album with overtones of Foo Fighters, Feeder and Queens of the Stone Age, with song after song of memorable, guitar-led rock. All in all, it’s an outstanding debut album.
It kicks off in slow, mellow fashion in the intro to Come In, which entices the listener in then slaps them in the face with a blitz of guitar and drums and an engaging, singalong chorus. The track concludes in heavier fashion, with a period of palm-muted, distorted chords followed by spoken dialogue before dropping into a heavy guitar solo and a few repetitions of “ooh yeah,” followed by another rendition of the chorus.
That’s followed by the excellent God Is Awake, which opens up with a funky guitar riff and vocals that feed into another big chorus, then a couple of cool guitar solos through the second verse and after the second chorus. And I really enjoy the lyrics “If God is awake, then he ain’t listening, if God is awake, then he ain’t your friend.” The band also has a real knack for slow, brooding verses that build gradually then smash into huge rock choruses, which is perfectly embodied in Here’s To You.
Standout track from the album This City has the potential to be huge. It starts off with a cool guitar riff before a drum roll and a slow and lingering verse that features heavy bass and faint reverb on the vocals. It gradually builds with delicious backing vocals through the pre-chorus before launching into the excellent chorus, with big guitar chords supporting the catchy vocals. The second verse is followed by a great little solo before a drawn-out crescendo into a final chorus. It’s been stuck in my head all morning, and I can’t stop listening to it! Check out the very cool animated video below:
The album gradually increases in heaviness, with the excellently named Riff of Death sounding exceedingly similar to Feeder at their finest – with big, fast guitar riffs and drums supporting equally quick moving vocals, with a cheeky guitar solo thrown in for good measure. That’s followed by Speed of Sound, which starts out slowly but soon explodes into big, low-tuned guitar chords and sweeping high-pitched guitar notes then developing into an absolute epic.
Archetype comes to an excellent ending, with huge tracks like Medicine and Mountain – just go and check out the awesome heaviness as this song smashes into life.
Visser said: “We’re so happy people are loving the album and understanding what we were trying to achieve with it. For us it was an organic process over a long period of time that was all about refining rough ideas and riffs into finished songs, and trying to be as objective as possible to serve the song.
“All three of us are producers so we tried to apply the same methodology to developing our own music that we would for other artists we produce. It’s all about being secure enough to throw away great ideas that on their own are amazing, but don’t work in the context of the song. We try to keep our egos in check.”
The band takes influence from a whole range of bands that really come across in the music, such as QOTSA and Tool, as well as heavier bands like Deftones, the more technical feel of Meshuggah and Periphery, through to more melodic music from Radiohead and Brand New. But all three of them had very musical upbringings in jazz, classical and blues which gives them a really eclectic feel.
Visser told us: “I always try and write lyrics that are influenced by real feelings and events, but of course there’s an element of storytelling and elaboration. Songs aren’t documentaries, but it’s really important to be saying something you really believe. In terms of influences, loads of things can give me an idea for a song, from other music to books to films to current events. My phone is full of crap ideas that never made it passed this point – and some good stuff too.”
Black Orchid Empire are currently in the midst of a UK-wide tour, which has been a massive success promoting the new album. Their shows bring big volume, lots of beer, and the occasional wall of death or circle pit as the band’s energy bounces off the audience.
Visser said: “We absolutely love touring up and down the country, checking out the rock scene in all these amazing places. The rock scene is so strong at the moment and it’s great to see so many awesome bands and so many dedicated fans out to have a good time.
“Our favourite venue so far would have to be Boston Music Room in London. We’ve never played there before and it was a great show, an awesome venue and Iain and the guys at BMR were outstanding. It really goes a long way when you have that sort of support.
“Last night (Wednesday) at Cobblestones in Bridgwater, my entire amp and cab stack fell off the back of the stage mid-song. The worst thing is it kept working and I didn’t even realise at first. When it did cut out, I just grabbed the mic and jumped out into the crowd. Dave and Billy didn’t even drop a beat! A couple of people we talked to after the show even thought that was how the song was supposed to go!”
We firmly believe that Black Orchid Empire are one of the most exciting new bands on the British music scene, so get out there and see them live if you can but absolutely go and check out the album.
Their UK tour continues through November, with a gig at The Hut in Corby tonight, before moving on to Scotland, Yorkshire and Ireland. More info is here. Not content with this nationwide tour Black Orchid Empire are already planning more touring next year, including festival appearances in the summer, and will be writing more material for album number two.