My listening time has been significantly less recently, so to give myself some time between reviews of releases to find and digest things, I’m going to start a series on bands I love that have broken up. The first is Time of Orchids. I don’t know what label they prefer, but it probably isn’t metal. They were a NYC based group that existed 1999-2008 (or around there).
Time of Orchids is one of my favorite bands of all time for lots of reasons. First, even 6 years after the album Sarcast While released, it still interests me. I’m not sure I can think of any album that has lasted this long for me. As with any band, it can be hard to give a good overview of their entire life due to changes in style and lineup.
One thing that stayed constant through their albums was the extremely innovative sound. This band never even sounded the same track to track on an album. They had bass heavy funky sounds, to entirely choral work, to piano rock, to heavy metal, to synth infused poppy songs.
The melody lines were quite abstract and unorthodox. At first it would sound very strange, yet this is one area the band excelled. They put a lot of time and effort into melody. This becomes clearer upon many listens. The originally strange sounding melody would transform into absolute beauty. The melodies over time became natural enough to get stuck in my head.
Underneath the melodies would be intense harmonic progressions. These guys were not kidding around with breaking all conventions. They often had absolutely no tonal center and were full of dissonance. On the other hand, just like the melody it would seem like the most natural thing in the world after a few listens. In fact, the dissonance was clearly a compositional device to enhance the beautiful parts.
The way Time of Orchids could play with time was pretty awesome as well. The time signatures were fairly standard, but songs were spiced up with individual measures changed, dropped beats, or mid-song tempo fluctuation.
Best of all is probably the compositional rigor and patience of the band. Their song construction was very thorough. It is composed music as opposed to working a jam into a song like many bands do. Everyone’s part was written to fit into the whole. Motifs were explored and developed through individual songs and whole albums. Classic techniques like inversion, retrograde, and embellishment are absolutely everywhere. This rewards lots of listening.
One thing that I would change is the sometimes use of synthesizer that sounds very dated now. If you are interested in this band, I’d definitely recommend Sarcast While as a starting point. On the other hand, I think Namesake Caution is just as good, but might be more interesting to a metal fan. One thing that cannot be emphasized enough is how Time of Orchids were able to use all these avant modern compositional techniques yet produce rock/metal albums that still somehow felt in the genre.
Here’s a sample, though you definitely need a lot more to get a good feel for them: