Audio Mixer: Mikey Young.
Recording information: 102 Elizabeth St (2015).
Before there was metal, there was heavy. Before the metal genre fully defined itself in the '70s, there were a handful of bands who built careers around testing the limits of what could be achieved with volume and physical impact. This is the music that has most clearly inspired ORB, an Australian trio featuring former members of the Frowning Clouds. Black Sabbath's early work clearly looms large in ORB's universe, as well as bands like Blue Cheer and Sir Lord Baltimore, who pre-dated the rise of metal but delivered an overdriven stomp like a weed-addled oaf trying to boogie in work boots. ORB's first full-length album, 2016's Birth, shows they've not only figured out how to replicate this stuff, they truly get it, and this doesn't sound like doomy proto-metal revivalism. Instead, Birth can readily pass for the great lost heavy album of 1969, with its elephantine rhythms, deep and fuzzy guitar figures, and thick basslines roiling underneath it all. ORB are a long way from re-inventing the wheel, but they get the subtle details of this music (believe it or not, there are subtle details in this stuff), understanding when to let in enough air to help this music come alive, and realizing that bludgeoning the songs isn't quite the key to maximum heaviness. Zak Olsen's guitar riffs are great, but his timing is just as good, and bassist Daff Gravolin and drummer Jamie Harmer keep up with the time shifts and heavyweight swing that keep Birth lively despite the frequently deliberate pace. Maybe Birth plays like a souvenir from some Black Sabbath Fan Club gathering, but ORB have absorbed their influences and come up with something that honors them while demonstrating how well they can engage with this music. After all, it's one thing to try to be heavy, it's another to actually pull it off, and ORB achieve that with flying colors on Birth. ~ Mark Deming