Saturday, March 8, 2014
By RICK JOHNSON
Portland's best heavy metal band actually broke up four years ago. Ogre pounded out terrific doomy stoner rock for a solid decade before calling it quits in 2009.
OGRE: "SECONDHAND DEMONS"
– Based on a four-star scale
Say "Doom metal" or "stoner rock" to any headbanger, and they'll know exactly what kind of music you're talking about: Bass-heavy hard rock played with down-tuned, fuzzed out-guitars and delivered with a low-slung '70s vibe. But for the uninitiated, Ogre's sound is best described as something akin to late AC/DC singer Bon Scott at his most impish singing lead for Black Sabbath during their early '70s prime.
No self-respecting metalhead could turn down a combination like that, and even folks who aren't exactly metal fans but love good solid rock can't resist Ogre. And though the band hasn't exactly reformed (yet), there have been some encouraging signs of life in the Ogre camp, one of which is the release of "Secondhand Demons," a collection of demos, unreleased live tracks and cover tunes spanning Ogre's entire career.
Opening track "The Centurion" dates from 2007, and is perhaps the shortest and fastest song in the Ogre canon, clocking in at a mere 1 minute and 7 seconds. Vocalist/bassist Ed Cunningham displays a surprisingly impressive vocal range while guitarist Ross Markonish shreds away like his life depends on it and drummer Will Broadbent thunders along like an out-of-control locomotive. It's a great way to open any album, even if the song is over way too soon.
"Age of Ice" and "The River" both date to the original self-titled "Ogre" demo from 2000. The sound is primitive and not as polished as on later releases, but it shows that all the classic Ogre elements were in place right from the get-go. At 11-plus minutes, "The River" almost overstays its welcome, but is saved at the halfway point by a drastic tempo change and an absolutely ripping guitar solo.
Sonic quality improves drastically on "God of Iron," a track recorded in 2007 (though it has such a strong Sabbath-like vibe, it may as well have been recorded in '71). "Drive" is the most recent studio track on the collection, originally appearing in longer form on 2008's "Plague of the Planet." It's another up-tempo number, with Cunningham adopting a gruffer, barking vocal style but still maintaining the sly, playful feel of earlier tracks.
The rest of the tracks are cover songs by the likes of Sabbath, Rush and Buffalo, an ultra-obscure Australian band.
Taken as a whole, "Secondhand Demons" is a little uneven, largely due to the inconsistent sound quality of the various original sources. But individually, any of these tracks works as a sonic calling card, a testament to the power of the hard-rock monster that was Ogre.
Hopefully, this compilation will prove to be the first rumblings of a beast slowly waking after a long slumber, ready to wreak rock 'n' roll havoc once again.
According to the band's Facebook page, "Secondhand Demons" will only be available for a very limited time, so head straight to Ogre's Bandcamp page (ogrereal.bandcamp.com/album/secondhand-demons) and download the album for $10.
Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook. He can be reached at: