Due for release on 21 October 2022 on Kscope, the expansive and emotive, Screamnasium is O.R.k’s most essential album to date. Spontaneous yet intricately crafted, and perhaps the most concise statement of the band’s sonic aims yet. With this, the highly anticipated follow up to 2019’s acclaimed Ramagehead, the quartet known as O.R.k has formed a strong creative bond, building over the course of three previous studio albums and with countless miles clocked up on tour. No bones about it, this is a gutsy, cathartic, striking and compelling work!
For those unfamiliar with the band, O.R.k. is ex-Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin, award-winning composer/vocalist Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari (a.k.a. LEF), King Crimson’s Pat Mastelotto, and Marta Sui Tubi’s Carmelo Pipitone. And no, I have no idea what O.R.k. stands for!
Colin Edwin comments “Right now, Screamnasium feels to me like the album we’ve been trying to make since we first conceived the band, both sonically and also in terms of the song-writing and subject matter. All four of us are playing to our natural strengths and we’ve managed to express both light and shade and all sorts of colours in between. It reflects our recent pasts and directs some energy towards a more hopeful future. For me, the album is kind of a depurative, I really hope that overall feeling comes across.” – and I have to say he’s right!
Setting the pace, lead single/album opener “As I Leave” delivers a distilled form of the O.R.k. spirit directly to you, the listener (see video below). Conjuring shades of Chris Cornell and Soundgarden, LEF’s powerful vocals, Carmelo Pipitone’s energetic riffing, Pat Mastelotto’s inventive rhythmic accompaniment and Colin Edwin’s distinctive bass tones all infuse this track – and indeed the whole of Screamnasium – with a refreshed intensity and a new luminosity.
Energy levels are maintained throughout the 42-minute runtime as O.R.k. really get stuck into their groove. Next up is Consequence, where LEF spars with Grammy winning vocal phenom Elisa, best known outside her native Italy for her collaboration with the legendary Ennio Morricone on Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained soundtrack! LEF and Elisa duette superbly, soaring high above the pacey, punchy lines from Carmelo and gang. Pure Jeff Buckley at times!
I Feel Wrong features Lef’s singing on this is superbly soaring, controlled, swirling effortlessly around Carmelo’s guitar lines within what feels like a really crisp, unusual arrangement. The following track Don’t Call Me A Joke again perfectly illustrates their blend of power, craft-full melody, harmonies and total musicianship – this is seriously good stuff, but next track Hope For The Ordinary manages to top it still, fascinating changes of rhythm, excellent percussion, stellar vocals, this album is something special!
Deadly Bite follows, a sinuous bassline throbbing away, married to nicely understated yet twangy lead guitar, LEF again doing his best Mr Cornell impression – and it is exceedingly good! But this is unfair, I venture to suggest LEF doesn’t need comparing with anyone, he’s got an amazing vocal range, including a wonderful blend of Cornell and Jeff Buckley – seriously, more people need to hear his voice! But this shouldn’t take anything at all away from the other three guys – they work as an extremely accomplished guitar/bass/drums trio, a really taut sound impeccably produced and mixed by Machine (who also does Lamb of God, King Crimson, Clutch)
One thing I particularly love (not like) about this album is the sheer variety of mood and timbre – wonderfully demonstrated by the album’s last three tracks. Something Broke is a gentler, almost balladic at times, track in its composition and arrangement. Lonely Crowd sneaks in to the tune of softly tinkling piano, echoing synth, LEF’s imploring lyrics, then the band enters with a tasty riff and really tight, punchy drums, it all builds and builds to a satisfying crescendo before fading away. And then the album’s closer. Someone Waits features virtuoso cellist Jo Quail who provides seductive melodies, intertwining with LEF’s celestial vocal tones to bring Screamnasium to a dramatic and unexpected finale.
The creative duo of Grammy winning art director Adam Jones (of Tool) and Marvel/DC Comics illustrator Denis Rodier have handled the artwork and layout to create an iconic album artwork with remarkable visual imagery. And as for the music, I’m blown away by the range of moods, styles and skills on show, this is simply an album NOT to be missed, showcasing a huge breadth of emotional landscapes! I fight back the temptation to use the phrase “Let’s go hunt some O.R.k.” – and fail! (sorry for that one!)
Screamnasium is released by KScope on 21st October – on CD or limited edition green coloured vinyl LP; black vinyl LP and digitally.