It's been a hot minute since I busted out the pen but I do remember a few basic rules from the Official AP Style Guide: the third person is accusatory; the second is pretentious; the first is narcissistic, passive voice is spineless; only Star Trek TNG is allowed to split the infinitive; and regardless of how special you think your abominable little pile of non sequiturs might be, it's almost certainly been done before and probably better. The beauty of music however is that, unlike skullfucking a thesaurus for your next half-baked think-piece, borrowing shamelessly from whatever musical gods you pray to can actually yield some dynamic, albeit it blatantly nostalgic, results.
San Francisco's Orchid were both hailed and dismissed after 2011's "Capricorn". Their penchant for digesting and regurgitating every little nuance of Black Sabbath's first four albums displays a studiousness fit for celibate mountain-dwelling monks. Whereas rethrash is riddled with poor Exodus clones and nowadays underground death metal has made Incantation an utter banality, bands that execute with musicianship, like Orchid does, tend to succeed. The comparisons may be tedious at this point but Mark Baker and Keith Nickel's complete assimilation of the Iommi and Butler musical blueprint and vocalist Theo Mindell's command of every single vocal hook and improvisation from the Sabbath/Obsessed/St Vitus camp make it next to impossible to avoid them.
The Sabbathisms are still here in full force. The heavy use of the harmonica on "Marching Dogs of War" is so painfully "The Wizard" that by the second song you just tend to accept it and settle it for time travel. One quickly realizes that the generally mid-paced nature of the album makes it palatable but the tempo could use a change. While songs like "Silent One" and the title track remind you of just why these guys are so good at tapping into the aesthetics of heavy metal's genesis, others like "Mountains of Steel" simply go nowhere. The doubletime changeups of "Leaving It All Behind" and "Nomad" give the album a well needed driving feel. Where the band really shines, however, is the storytelling and cadence of Theo Mindell, who unlike sHEAVY's Steve Hennessey, is far from an Ozzy clone. "The Loving Hand of God" is a spacey, acid-soaked storyline about a young man disillusioned with the world's curmudgeons and puritans. Surely these can't be the creations of the omnipotent and omniloving god he so earnestly accepted as a youngster? It also has a wicked solo sequence, bolstered by Carter Kennedy's timely drum fills.
Ultimately, the songwriting has been tempered slightly. Though each tune is blanketed with a pleasant Orange cabby type warmth that wasn't quite as pronounced on the their first outing, the songs take a bit longer to gain traction. Yet, despite not being a complete homerun like its predecessor, The Mouths of Madness will still have you roaming the outskirts of your mind, weaving between the naked cedars, throwing devious glances at the goblins perched in the trees, and doing mini-fistpumps for remembering to pack the bong.