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Ortega : 1634

Finding Ortega is kind of like sampling a very fine wine – only to discover it was bottled last year.

An unknown band to me when this disc landed for review – but, with unknown entities, sometimes come nice surprises. Ortega, hailing from Groningen, Holland, were formed in 2008 – with '1634' being their first full length release, albeit self-released and sadly limited to 100 copies. I am also vaguely aware there is a nautical theme/concept/story that runs through this album, regarding the survivor of a shipwreck and the subsequent recollection of events.

I keep spinning this cd… desperately trying to pick fault in what I'm hearing, to make the overuse of superlatives here unjustified.

A warm and welcoming introduction, leads into a dark brooding riff of discordance. Heavy and ominous. Interest is immediately piqued by what seems like a decent recording, musicianship and composition. The music is subtle and dark, even though it is definitely on the accessible and less extreme side. The guitar work is interesting and the first few tracks are the most memorable openers I've heard since the Eibon debut in 2010 - plenty of chugging riffs and a more mid to up tempo Sludge assault.

As the tracks progress, Ortega take us more into regions of introspection and mellow melancholy. Tracks are laden with strings in a style that reminds me of the 90's Death band Believer (some would compare more to early My Dying Bride). These middle tracks drift divergently - and, on initial listen, lost my attention, although I can now see them as an integral part of the whole work, adding to the structure and texture of the album. Giving a feeling of vast ambience within the music. Yet, it is these moments which perhaps propound the Post-Rock diagnosis.

The vocal delivery initially seems to lack dynamism and feels too two-dimensional shouty-sludgey, especially when the vocalist can growl really well. But again, after a few listens, within the theme/concept of the album, it all seems to fit. Throughout the journey there are a number of style changes and variances in speed, loudness, energy - but these are not disjointed, there is fluidity and everything works well together... creating a myriad of emotions and doomy escapism.
Not overawed with expectation, the band seem to have had a specific vision and goal with '1634', which I believe has been accomplished. The album feels whole.

Ortega seem oft referred as Post-Rock/Sludge and are bound to be compared at some point to Neurosis, Isis and others of a similar persuasion. Whilst the comparisons are undoubtedly evident, it does seem rather lazy. Ortega show enough personality and variance to stand alone. I’m not saying they are unique and creating music like has never been heard - but Ortega do add something of their own identity to the genre.

Moments of elegance, moments of excellence - even inspiration. This is a strong, robust and cohesive piece of work. Is there enough here to take this from a very good release into the realms of something great? You can make that judgement. Ortega have the demeanour to create Metal with a swagger of integrity. '1634' is certainly a recording that is well worthy of attention, perhaps even essential if you are a fan of this genre. I'm expecting their next album to be on a label, without a shadow of doubt.
Perhaps too many superlatives - but it is not very often you encounter such promise and endeavour from a new band. Great potential. Finding Ortega is kind of like sampling a very fine wine - only to discover it was bottled last year.

Note by the Admin.: this version of ’1634’ is the re-release of the album the band had self-released in 2010.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1 Still
2 Into The Waves
3 Shipwrecked
4 The Siren
5 Octagon
6 Chaser
7 The Oracle

Duration : Approx. 43 minutes

Visit the Ortega bandpage.

Reviewed on 2012-09-04 by The Caveman
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