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Orca: Universe

London alternative metal outfit’s debut – not quite a killer.

Orca Universe album artwork

Over the years, prog has become identified with one characteristic – unorthodox time signatures.

Yet tempo tampering is a delicate art, and the debut long-player from Orca shows how you can drive your audience away if you become too enamoured with your own non-linear song structures. Frustratingly, there’s much to admire in the adventurous spirit of this London-based metal group. Every so often they produce promising passages you hope will develop into something more substantial, but that never quite happens. Tracks such as Pyramid meander aimlessly from staccato metal to crooning daydreams without offering much to actually hang on to melodically, rhythmically or riff-wise. Aquarium has a three-legged rhythm married to brooding, portentous grunge, punctuated with roaring thrash catharsis – it sounds like they’re making it up as they go. The Slint-y post-rock textures of Bomb Down are engaging at times, but it seems designed to trip you up with the next random diversion. Orca might be enjoying the challenge of playing this constantly wrong-footing style of music, but there’s just not enough to keep the rest of us interested.

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock