Friday Full-Length: Orodruin, Epicurean Mass

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Orodruin, Epicurean Mass (2003)

Next time you’re looking for an example of a band who really, really, really, really need to get another record out, keep Orodruin in mind. I’m talking about the kind of band who’d be doing the world a favor by putting out something new, and that’s the Rochester doomers all the way. Not saying I need something from them every six months or anything like that — like they’re about to turn into some Upstate New York Hawkwind or something — but it’s been over 14 years since their debut full-length, Epicurean Mass, came out via PsycheDOOMelic Records, and if you believe in the concept of “overdue,” then there’s just about no way a sophomore outing from Orodruin doesn’t qualify.

True, the band have had a number of short offerings out since then. 2004 brought a split with Reverend Bizarre as well as the compilation Claw Tower… and Other Tales of Terror that’s basically stood in ever since where a second full-length might’ve otherwise been, but that was basically it until they were selling a new demo at Days of the Doomed in 2011 and they had copies of the subsequent, limited-to-30-copies In Doom EP for sale when they played the Wisconsin-based fest in 2012 as well — as I recall it was in a paper sleeve; without looking I’m at least 90 percent sure mine is upstairs on the rack with the other sleeve purchases — but even that was half a decade ago now and throughout most of that stretch, news of a follow-up hasn’t gone much beyond “it’s in progress” or “we’re writing”-type updates. Nothing even close to a firm release date, label news, etc., and listening to the Epicurean Mass, that only adds to the void conjured by the classic-style doom of songs like “Burn the Witch” and “Melancholia.” With the mournful vocals of bassist Mike Puleo at the fore over the schooled-and-schooling riffs of guitarists Nick Tydelski and John Gallo, the latter also of Blizaro and his own admirably Paul Chain-esque solo work, backed by the lumbering drums of Mike WaskeEpicurean Mass has to stand among one of the most underrated US trad doom releases of all time.

Think about it this way. Orodruin formed in 1998 and issued Epicurean Mass in 2003. That puts them roughly concurrent to Indianapolis’ The Gates of Slumber, who formed in ’98 and put out their first record, The Awakening, in 2004. Think about the trajectory of the two bands. The Gates of Slumber spent years touring their collective ass off and released a total of five albums between ’04 and their swansong in 2011, and came to represent the head of a movement of traditionalist doom the influence of which is still spreading. Maybe you have to have seen Orodruin play live to get this sense, but there’s no way Orodruin couldn’t have been right there with the Midwesterners in profile and prestige. I think that comes through when you hear to the harmonies in “Peasants Lament” and “War Cry” — let alone the organ in the latter, which sets up the perfect preface for the final stretch of the eight-minute closing title-track — or the downer shuffle of “Pierced by Cruel Winds,” the rumble of “Unspeakable Truth” and the tempo shifts in “Melancholia.” In tone and presence, Orodruin were no less dynamic than The Gates of Slumber or anyone else working in the style at the time — hell, look at the legacy Reverend Bizarre have left behind in Europe; you can still see the ripples in new doom acts almost every week on release day. That’s not to take away from RevBiz or The Gates of Slumber at all. Those bands worked hard in the studio and on the road to earn the prestige they enjoyed during their respective time together. Nobody was sneaking their way to popularity there or getting away with a shortcut. I’m just saying the quality of Orodruin‘s craft, particularly on Epicurean Mass, meets that same quality standard, and in no small part because they never toured as much or as widely and haven’t to-date issued a follow-up LP, they never got to the same level of recognition for their work.

Is it too late? I don’t know. On July 5 of this year, Orodruin posted an update saying they would be tracking demos in August and September to kick around to labels and had picked out a studio to begin recording proper on their second album in December. Never say never in rock and roll. It could be that 2018 will finally bring a new Orodruin full-length and perhaps that will let them get some measure of the recognition they’ve long since deserved. Some 14 years — by then it will be 15 — after Epicurean Mass, one hesitates to offer a prediction either way, but if there’s hope of it coming together and actually happening, it’s hard to imagine labels like Shadow KingdomThe Church Within, or maybe even someone like Svart wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to stand behind the four-piece’s work. And as to what it might sound like? My guess is it would be doomed as hell. Frankly, it’s hard to think about the prospect and not get excited at what might come, but if it even happens, it’s probably a ways off, so yeah. Measured response. Cool your jets.

And in the meantime, one of the most righteous aspects of Epicurean Mass is that its decay is as ripe today as it was when it first came out, so if you’ve never heard it or if you’re revisiting after a while, I most definitely hope you enjoy its doomly processions.

Thanks as always for reading.

Oy, this week.

Though it started out exceedingly pleasant as The Patient Mrs. and I continued a long weekend in Vermont to celebrate our anniversary, I’ll say I’m not at all sorry to see it come to an end. The site, as you may or may not have noticed, shit the bed on Tuesday. The deal was basically that HostGator, the company I’ve used for the last however many years to host it, decided that it took up too much processor power and shut it down, more or less holding it hostage until I either did some shit that wasn’t going to actually fix anything and was going to take up a bunch of time or — and something tells me this was actually what they were going for — gave them more money to move to a dedicated server.

Well fuck that, and fuck them. With the generosity of Behrang Alavi of Samavayo, who it just so happens offered a while ago to host the site, we’re now in the process of making a switch. The site’s back up (you’re reading it, so yeah), and Behrang and Slevin have been working hard all week to make the transition happen while I’ve sat and fretted to no fucking end and tried to keep up with the writing end of things in no small part to stop myself from going insane. Minimally effective. We were back live yesterday. Two days’ downtime. On the grand scheme that’s nothing, but still kind of excruciating for me personally in a way I’m not sure I can properly express.

Came back from Vermont on Wednesday because The Patient Mrs. had work, kind of feeling like we were getting away with something by sneaking that trip in before the baby comes. Getting closer to the Oct. 15 due date. Just a couple weeks now. All’s well on that front. The Patient Mrs. remains aglow despite some well-earned discomfort, and all the ultrasounds and midwife visits show The Pecan as healthy and basically just waiting to show up and start kicking ass. We’re stoked.

As I noted last week was our wedding anniversary, this week — yesterday, actually — was the anniversary of when The Patient Mrs. and I first got together. 20 years ago. In 1997. Unbelievable. She is so much a part of my life. Like, all of it. And I feel like we’re just about to start this whole new adventure. It’s an amazing time and it’s going to be really challenging and really exciting and all of these things. But we’re doing it together, is the thing. I’m so lucky. 20 years. I was 15.

Having just come back from Vermont the day before, we didn’t really do much to celebrate. She went to work and I plowed away catching up on Obelisk stuff at home, but I grilled her some chicken and a garlic-infused burger for myself (also made a garlic/truffle aioli to go on top of that, which was amazing) and sauteed some baby kale and we sat down to dinner together and then watched baseball on the couch for a while before crashing out, so not by any means an unpleasant evening. This weekend we’re in Connecticut to see her family and my family and then back to MA on Sunday for The Patient Mrs.’ baby shower with her coworkers. I’m told I have to go. Seems debatable to me at best.

Next week, we wrap the Quarterly Review on Monday and there’s more to come besides. Here’s what’s in my notes now, subject to change as always and as this week certainly has been:

Mon.: Quarterly Review Day 6; Tronald video; Freak Valley 2018 announcement.
Tue.: Young Hunter track premiere/review; Asteroid video premiere.
Wed.: Enslaved review; Aux track premiere.
Thu.: Black Mare review; Rancho Bizarro video.
Fri.: Radio Moscow review.

Those reviews and some more slated for the week after is stuff I’m trying to get in before The Pecan shows up, but we’ll see how it goes. We’re close enough now to the due date that it could basically be anytime, so if it happens that’s obviously going to affect my ability to get reviews done as slated at least in the immediate for a few days, right? Can’t really be like, “Hey baby, I know you’re in labor but this Radio Moscow album ain’t gonna write itself up! Also what’s the hospital wifi?” So yeah. Please know I’ll do what I can when I can. Same as always.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend, whatever you’re up to. I appreciate you taking the time to read, and I think you for your patience with the downtime this week. Hopefully that’s over with at this point, but in any case, yeah, thanks. And special thanks to Slevin and Behrang as well.

Have fun. Be safe. Thanks for reading. Back Monday. Forum and Radio.

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