Orion is the musical project of the hugely talented, and very humble, Ben Jones and John Wenlock-Smith reviewed Orion’s debut release, ‘The End Of Suffering’, earlier this year and was mightily impressed, closing his review with this paragraph;
“There is great musicianship and intelligence to this album, all in all ‘The End of Suffering’ is a most wonderful release, I highly commend it to all, especially those who like their prog harder and less symphonic.”
I had to heartily agree with John, the fact that it was totally self-financed by Ben and he wrote, performed and produced every single note was also worthy of much appreciation. Now, as Ben works on his second full length album, he has released a taster of the Orion’s musical direction with this new E.P. ‘Passing Through’. Ben gives us some background to this new release;
‘”Passing Through’ is a mini release, aimed at giving people an insight into where Orion will be headed next. It features three new songs, and hopefully breaks some new musical ground. There is also an extended version available, which also includes instrumental mixes of the three new tracks“, He goes on to say, With ‘Passing Through,’ I’ve been keen to implement different time signatures, more intricate playing, wider soundscapes, and generally take a bit more of an adventurous path with the music. Beyond expanding my synth library, I’ve also added some orchestral sample packs into my musical palette. I’m no Michael Kamen, but it’s been exciting to resurrect my music theory knowledge, and apply it to strings, woodwind and horn sections. I’ve also added a seven-string guitar and a five-string bass to the mix, resulting in at least one track which is, I dare say, verging on heavy.“
So, without further ado, let’s dig into these three new tracks…
The opening track The Tumult of My Heart was inspired by a book of the same name by Jason Spencer from The Prog Mind. The book is about trying to deal with religious trauma from the author’s past. The song itself tries to deal with these issues. There are many good elements to religion, and there are many bad elements. That’ simplifying it a tad, but you get the picture. As for the music, well, what can I say, an imposing wall of sound is created by the layered widescreen guitar sound and the powerful rhythm section but the vocals add some real heart and soul so it’s not just a metal track. There’s a searching passion and questioning mind at the heart of this powerfully emotive piece of music and a feeling of fragility and a soul laid bare. It’s very compelling and influential and a great start to the E.P.
My favourite song of the three is The Ghosts Among Us, it is a profound piece of music written about the gut wrenching experience of caring for someone with a profound disability. Whilst it’s not something Ben has had to do, it is something he’s witnessed first hand. And I myself have a real affinity with this track as I have some experience of this myself and which came all flooding back as I listened to this brilliantly written song.
“Ultimately, it’s almost as if they’re no longer alive, other than physically. You can read their vital signs, but can you read them as a person? I can’t imagine having to make the decision to switch off the things that are keeping some people alive, but I also can’t imagine the horror of being trapped in an unresponsive body.“
Genres go out of the window when there is a subject as deep as this, it is just beautifully enlightened and discerning music that treats the subject matter with the gravity it deserves, a hauntingly graceful guitar opens the song before the hushed vocal enters, adding an earnest, insightful quality, before the drums and superb bass lay down a dynamic rhythm and Ben’s vocal takes over. I can’t really describe how the music touches you and makes you feel, you’ll just have to listen to it yourself, suffice to say I felt enlightened by the sensitive way the subject is dealt with on this utterly captivating track, bravo to Ben for getting it perfect, much like the superb guitar solo…
After the emotional roller coaster of the previous track, the in-your-face metal infused prog of This Sickness and it’s diatribe on the negativity of social media is just about spot on.
“When I finally become the Supreme Ruler of Earth, Tik Tok will be burned to the ground… Vote for me. I’m not a fan of social media. It’s just terrible. I appreciate the irony of the fact that my entire following is based around Facebook and Bandcamp, but that’s different. I don’t do absurd dances to terrible music… I write my own terrible music. As with all things, there are good parts and bad parts. In my view, the bad parts of social media seem to outnumber the good.”
And, man, is this track angry! Crunching guitars in the style of ‘Train Of Thought’ era Dream Theater and drums that are hewn out of granite open this thunderously compelling track. The vocals are distinct and authoritarian and the whole song just bleeds a potent intent. This is ‘proper’ prog-metal that puts a smile on my face, and not just because of the subject matter. The musicianship is sublime and Ben just seems to be having a whale of a time, venting his frustration in the best way he knows how. It’s a riot from beginning to end and I seriously enjoyed it.
It’s not often I review E.P’s but, knowing it was the follow up to Orion’s stunning debut album and a glimpse into Ben’s future musical direction, I just had to review this one. I am so glad I did, ‘Passing Through’ shows a musician highly confident in his abilities and features songwriting of the highest calibre. It’s a monumental achievement in only three songs and I cannot wait for what comes next, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Released 1st December, 2023.
Order from bandcamp here;
And, for the measly additional cost of £1, you can get the extended edition with the instrumentals here: