This is a review of "Untitled" recorded by The Dead Orchestra. The review was written by Jessica Thornsby in 2009.
'Fragile Soul' is a slow-burner of delicate atmospherics that occasionally delivers a harder sound, thanks to an undercurrent of brooding riffs and increasingly urgent vocals. This draws such a cloud over 'Fragile Soul's tinkling, keyboard-led melodies, that you'll be convinced the song's about to take a full-on rock u-turn. It doesn't, as 'Fragile Soul' melts back into those shivering keys, acoustic guitar and eerie, choir-like backing vocals.
'Fragile Soul' is an intriguing, heartfelt first track and, even better, its pretty, sparkling central tune's occasional foray into darker territory, prevents it from just becoming just another pleasant-but-forgettable ballad. This is a beautifully understated song with bite.
'Take It All Away' has a unique chorus of tinny acoustic guitar and synthesised strings that combine in a distinctly metallic-sounding sweep of sound. The bridge section climbs to even greater heights, as the synths move away from emulating strings, and take on a more artificial, organ-inspired sound that puts an extra theatrical twist on 'Take It Away.'
Against that chorus and bridge section, the verses seem plodding and lacking in atmosphere, as vocalist Tom O'Keefe drones out the lyrics over long, trembling riffs. There's the vague impression that The Dead Orchestra are stalling for time until the next chorus blow-out. However, the choruses are packed with strikingly dramatic highs, studded with glacial-cool synths and have a very distinctive, metallic edge, and if the verses can't quite match up, then it's actually not that surprising.
With 'Oh Lord' The Dead Orchestra employ shrieking, string-emulating synths in another cinematic chorus. 'Oh Lord's bridge section is equally dramatic, as an undercurrent of grinding chords and some increasingly urgent vocals brings a darker, brooding aspect to 'Oh Lord's flamboyance.
Of course, when you can imagine a song's best bits being played during a film's climatic scene, the less dramatic sections, such as the verses, are always going to feel like a return to earth. But, this is pretty unavoidable and, for the most part, 'Oh Lord' is a heady, wonderfully overblown piece of pop-infused aural drama.
Last track 'A Space We Can't Fill' takes a different route to achieving the dramatic chorus The Dead Orchestra seem such fans of; this time relying on crashing riffs and rumbling drumbeats, rather than synths. They pull it off with the all the style exhibited during their more operatic moments, proving that The Dead Orchestra aren't just a one-trick pony. It's actually surprising how heavy 'A Space We Can't Fill' gets, especially during the bridge section, which is packed with long, grinding riffs and bursts of machine-gun drumming.
The hard-rocking 'A Space We Can't Fill' may end this EP on an unexpectedly heavy note, but it's a fittingly dramatic end to a release that's packed full of shamelessly over-the-top moments.
The most impressive thing about this EP is how it always goes out on a limb, there's nothing middle-of-the-road or unsure about any of the four tracks on show here. Consequently, even if you're not a major fan of film scores or operatic-tinged rock, then there's still a good chance you'll get swept up in this release. At the very least, you certainly won't be bored.