ALBUM REVIEW: Black Orchid Empire – Tempus Veritas


Prog metal trio Black Orchid Empire crank up the technical complexity and again display their playing chops on Tempus Veritas (Season Of Mist). While there is a certain schizophrenia at play here, a clash of styles, if not intent, it has to be said that when these London-based boys (Paul Visser – vocals/guitars, Dave Ferguson – bass/vocals, and Billy Freedom – drums) are good, they are very good.


The “clash” is there from the start, though, as the tastefully elegant, moody instrumental title track is brought to an abrupt halt by the heavy riffing of ‘Hydrogen’. The “schizophrenia” is manifested by the rhythmic power of the heavier, djent-y sections often being at odds with the more melodic, soft metal hooks. Yes, it’s obviously a deliberate strategy for this band to attempt to blend these diverse elements, the hard-hitting and the melodic. 


The release has been described as “a collection of stories that seeks to find compelling, imaginary narratives hidden away in what we all think of as history”, though there is little substance to back that up. “How did Pope Urban VIII feel when confronted by his friend Galileo about the true nature of the sun? What was it like to be a Norse settler amongst the Saxons; did the omens of the ancient gods begin to disappear?” (Quoth the Raven, “clever lore”)? 


Having heard the album, I confess the answers to such questions remain stubbornly elusive, if not entirely irrelevant, as the lyrics and all-around treatment of the supposed historical/imaginative subject matters are fairly simplistic and uninspiring.


This is a very well-played and produced album, and the vocals at times recall the breathy, poised, clear, and clean excellence of Dream Theater’s James LaBrie (a compliment, yes, before you old Dream Theater rebels start getting all frothy again). ‘Scarlet Haze’ also recalls bits of DT’s The Astonishing album. There is a sense of real ambition and a concept that sees the boys looking back to the past in contrast to previous album, Semaphore, which was more of a futuristic, sci-fi affair. 


To these ears, though, on occasion, they take the experiment too far, and results are, at times, disjointed – not least on the likes of ‘Deny The Sun’ and ‘Glory To The King’. Other bands have taken on a similar challenge and achieved more powerful, effective, focused, and consistent results. 


Having said that, the aforementioned ‘Hydrogen’ is a real stand-out that proves the formula can work, while the ironically titled ‘Weakness’ is, in fact, a strength, choppy and poppy in equal measure. Latest single ‘The Raven’ starts out rough and ready but soon flies higher to become another winner that seizes you by the throat to grab your attention before giving you a coupla soothing back rubs and offering you a cool beer on its way to a rocking-out finale. 


Buy the album here:


7 / 10