Power metal, as a genre, is stale beyond belief. You have dozens of new bands that are doing the same things the old guard used to do, and you have the big names still out there, but now making rather bland follow-ups to their once greatness. One of the very few bright spots is Orden Ogan, who have carved out a niche as one of the few bands making power metal that really matters. I maintain that "Easton Hope" is one of the best power metal records of the last fifteen years or so, and the records that have come since might not match it in scope, but they come darn close. So when they announced a new record for this year, I was finally excited about something in metal.
To be honest, I was a bit worried by the theme of the record. Volbeat tried a similar Western motif, and it was a disaster. Thankfully, it didn't take very long to hear that Orden Ogan was in complete control of their sound.
With each passing record, Orden Ogan has been getting heavier, and that continues here. "Gunmen" is their heaviest record to date, and it's a refreshing change of pace for the power metal world. There's no one who could seriously call this 'flower metal'. This is thick, chunky, crushingly heavy power metal that tries to make every song more epic than the last. Some bands, no matter how much studio trickery they use, sound small. Orden Ogan sounds massive.
At this point, Orden Ogan has their sound, and they stick with it. If you heard "Easton Hope", you know what "To The North" and "Ravenhead" both offered, albeit with a few very slight dips into new territory. In that respect, "Gunmen" is the safest Orden Ogan album yet, because it doesn't break any new ground. These ten tracks give us heavy doses of the band's chugging riffs and huge choirs. We don't even get a ballad or heavily folk-influenced song this time around. But while this album is safe, it's also the most consistent album they've put out. Every song follows the same trajectory, but that's because it's a great one.
Orden Ogan is, to put it simply, the modern update on Blind Guardian's classic period. It's that kind of epic power metal, but with an even heavier and dirtier edge to the music. They find the perfect blend of low-tuned crunch and gritty melody. And with their penchant for adding choirs on top of choirs, those choruses are massive hymns to the metal gods. If I'm being nit-picky here, they do sometimes layer in a few too many voices where the lyrics become hard to decipher, but the sheer amount of tracks emphasizes the epic scope of the songs.
You may notice I haven't mentioned any tracks by name. That's because there isn't any need to single out specific tracks. "Gunmen" is remarkably consistent, where nearly every song is of the same excellent level of quality. It really is a case of 'if you like one, you'll like them all'.
Orden Ogan hasn't gotten the level of acclaim more traditional power metal bands have, but what they've done is quietly built up a discography of stellar releases that put them right at the top of the list of bands currently populating the genre. They are an excellent band who make really good to great records, and "Gunmen" is another one that continues their winning streak. They've never made even a mediocre record, and they haven't here either. "Gunmen" is easily one of the best metal records of the year, and one you need to go listen to. Seriously.