Album Review: Orphans – “Pack Mentality/Jus Ad Bello”

Denver, Colorado’s Orphans have only been together since 2011, in which time they have brought us their debut EP ‘Jus Ad Bello’ as well as the follow-up ‘Pack Mentality’ within only six months of each other! To call them a hardworking band would be a massive understatement, and it should only take one listen of each EP for you to realise this. Never Lost Records have now released the vicious eight track collection on some rather sexy marble vinyl, so it seemed hugely appropriate that Orphans were given some well-deserved coverage.

‘Renegades Of Fuck’, the opening number on ‘Jus Ad Bello’ is a fantastic track. The vocals are spat at you like ‘Adrenaline’-era Chino Moreno in the beginning, accompanied by some snazzy drumming, before the pace slows and we are given the good ol’ screamo treatment.
Two minutes into this debut is where we are first acquainted with a sound that has led to Orphans being compared to Circle Takes The Square, almost every time anybody has written anything about them. It’s not often a band get compared to Circle Takes The Square, and it’s definitely hard to ignore the similarities, especially with the vocals here. High-pitched wails sit behind a shaky-voiced delivery before the heavy-as-fuck ending gives you one last smack in the mouth.

The brilliantly titled ‘Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used To Be’ is everything you want from a screamo track – delicate riffs, slow building drums and overlapping vocals (you’ll really see where the CTTS comparison comes from now). The song then explodes into what really just sounds like another track entirely, not sure if this was what they were going for here. And wait, did I just hear a bit of double-kick near the end of this one?
There’s a definite metal influence shining through on parts of this record, which I feel helps it to not sound like a lot of other screamo and post-hardcore releases that are getting churned out these days.

‘If Ghosts Could Talk (Dead Peasant Policies)’ is, in my opinion, the best one on this side of the wax. A haunting introduction on the piano, and the chant-along you’ve been waiting for and knew was coming at some point.

Then comes the follow-up ‘Pack Mentality’ on the flip. This is where Orphans have really found their feet. The production is a touch better, the songs are more manic, the vocals are more rabid sounding. Overall, it just sounds a whole lot more violent and destructive. Needless to say, the Circle Takes The Square influence is still very apparent, especially so on ‘Dark Satanic Mills’. Typically-screamo spoken word parts are evident throughout much of this EP, often giving you a brief moment to breathe before the chaos and carnage ensues again.

Opener ‘Blood Of The Father’ changes direction numerous times and immediately shows great evidence of them growing as a band, even with it being recorded so soon after the first record. The huge amount of changes of pace, as well as the variation in the different vocal styles in every part of each track really keeps you on your toes, unable to guess what’s coming next. Of course, what comes next is always messy mosh-pit material and heavy-as-fuck.

I realise I’ve already used that phrase to describe Orphans earlier in this review, but sometimes only one phrase can be wholly appropriate. In this case it’s ‘heavy-as-fuck’. Imagine Glassjaw beating the shit out of La Dispute with weapons that they borrowed from The Blood Brothers and you’re halfway there.

Another highlight, ‘White Guilt’, has a bit of everything I’ve mentioned previously and brings this record to a close very neatly. Screeching vocals, fast, technical drumming, a riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on one of the more recent Dillinger Escape Plan albums, a meaty bassline underneath the spoken word poetry that leads to another invitation into the pit, and some noisy feedback to finish.

Orphans are certainly worth keeping an eye on, that’s if this record doesn’t rip them both out and stamp on them.

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