Orphan Project
Spooning Out the Sea

If I’m being honest, I’m not sure what to make of Orphan Project. My first impression was that they were a decent commercial rock band with some aspirations to progressive, but on subsequent listens, I realized that assessment was a bit too shallow. There’s certainly commercial rock here, and progressive, metal, even some easy listening soft rock and all with Christian overtones. To have that much going on is not always a bad thing, but at times I feel like they’re trying to do a little too much. The juxtaposition of the blazing metal riffs of “My Goodness” with the soft pop of first single “One Dark Moment (Providence)” can be a little disconcerting, and it gives the listener a little question as to whether or not this band really knows what they want to be. Perhaps that’s the goal, though — to not have people really know what to think of them.

Looking at this record from the standpoint of a metal fan, there are some very strong moments to recommend it. The first blast of a harder sound we get is on the opening of second track “Angel’s Desire,” which suggests that this is going to be a more standard prog metal outing. Then, there’s the funky, flowing guitar riffing of “Fallen,” some of the strongest and most impressive on the record that leads into a U2-influenced verse that’s kind of weird but still interesting when put side-by-side. Then there’s the contemporary Christian-style chorus that throws things off a bit. “To Me” is a straight-ahead hard rock number with lots of 1970s influence. It’s one of only a couple of songs here that is what it is and doesn’t take a left turn at some point. There’s some more ferocious riffing on “My Goodness,” one of the heavier tracks on the record, and “The Battle Rages On” traipses almost into symphonic metal territory with its fast riffing.

But nearly every time they give me something to latch on to, Orphan Project takes a turn I don’t like. A perfect example is “Empty Me,” which opens with a strong Savatage-like piano-pounding bit and features one of the best vocal performances from Shane Lankford, but then it morphs into a very, very commercial chorus. And therein lies the problem. A tune that I loved up until the chorus suddenly turns into much of the generic sameness that I dislike about modern radio rock. For me, at least, it’s a bit off-putting.

Certainly there is talent here, and when guitarist Shane McBride gets a chance to let it rip, his riffing is impressive. Lankford can, at times, belt out some very emotional vocals, while at other times sounding very generic.

Even the mellower parts are not all bad. The title track is actually one of the stronger songs, a smoky, bluesy number that really connects. But again, there just doesn’t seem to be any sort of cohesion to this record. It’s interesting enough to recommend a listen for fans of prog, commercial rock or contemporary Christian, who will all probably find some things to like and dislike about it. It’s just a bit too scattered for my tastes.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
July 14th, 2009

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