Black Orchid Empire
Thursday 2nd February
The Monarch, Camden, London
Described as Hard Rock with a soft underbelly, we saw the awesome Black Orchid Empire headline at Camden's Monarch last Thursday night. At yet another Camden Rocks showcase, The Monarch is a real rock pub, a microcosm of today's music business as bands bartered equipment with each other during their sound checks, whilst we were interviewing BOE consisting of New Zealander Dave Ferguson (bass/vocals), American Billy Freedom (drums) and Brit Paul Visser (vocals/guitar) backstage beforehand. With a plethora of support bands, namely, I Cried Wolf, Dead Dollar Days and The Indya Band - there was no question that you were not going to get your money's worth - particularly as BOE confirmed that the majority of their setlist was to contain their critically acclaimed new album 'Archetype'.
Rising out of the phoenix of the band Cape Fear - who once supported INXS - and winners of UK Emergenza 2013 - BOE are influenced not only by the bands the guys like, such as The Deftones, Rival Sons and Alice In Chains, but also the bands they have supported i.e. Biffy Clyro, Feeder and Skunk Anansie plus the bands they have met on the circuit i.e. Veridian and Stereo Juggernaut (who were also on the bill tonight). 'Archetype', mastered by American Ted Jensen and released in November 2016, was essentially three years in the making, not only because of the meticulous musical nature of the band but also because they wanted to ensure that the necessary commercial infrastructure was in place to launch the album.
Therefore this one-off gig followed some pretty extensive promotional gigging in 2016 which included Planet Rockstock and Standon Calling. It was a bit disappointing therefore to learn (but understandable) towards the end of our interview that, with a strict curfew at 11pm, BOE's set was to be restricted to just half an hour! The band are currently writing their second album and kicked off with a newbie 'Mouth Of The Wolf' which was immediately followed by the more familiar and punchy 'God Is Awake' with it's stand out vocal harmonies from Visser and Ferguson - their second single from 'Archetype' (and part of their "Empire Strikes Back" video trilogy) which has deservedly received plenty of airplay on Planet Rock. Given the short setlist - the self explanatory quick fire 'Riff Of Death' again from 'Archetype' was proof, if needed, of what a meticulous power trio BOE are - not only further evidence of their strength but the fact that they are all riffing from the same hymn sheet.
And if you were in any doubt that these guys weren't all about rhythm, melody and heavy riffs with an edge, then Visser's enticing guitar/vocal intro of their very first single from 'Archetype' 'Come In' (another part of their "Empire Strikes Back" video trilogy) and his rallying call "Let's fucking have it!" was immediately followed by a riff to die for plus Freedom's pounding drums - cue general head banging all round and Visser asking how we were doing - very nicely thank you - THE track that attracted me to BOE in the first place! The inclusion of 'Mountain', again from 'Archetype', which was sandwiched in between two more impressive new tracks 'Burn' and 'Wires', made up for the exclusion of my favourite track from 'Archetype' - 'Here's To You'. This was the first song BOE ever wrote with its eastern mystical feel - which duly validated the guys own belief of their tag of Alt Rock with Progressive tendencies - reinforcing their stand out harmonies with Ferguson's storming bass outro leading into some more heavy head banging riffage from Visser. A short but great set from BOE, plus a massive well done to all the bands that performed on the night - keeping the flag flying proudly for a real live rock music venue. As for Black Orchid Empire - they return for Camden Rocks on Saturday 3rd June plus they have other festival plans in the pipeline - do not miss them.