Washington DC’s Orthrelm are Mick Barr (Crom-tech, Quix*o*tic, Octis and more) on guitar and Josh Blair (ABCS, WWIII, Supersystem) on drums. With three full-lengths under their belt, they recently joined Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings roster with OV
, a one-track album that spans 45-minutes and multiple musical genres.
Orthrelm’s first recordings avoided repetition of any kind, no choruses, no riff repeated. The early material distilled the over-the-top, raging parts of metal. Music moved at a blistering pace, never giving the listener a moment to relax, no resolutions and no familiarity. There were more notes than the listener could ever possibly absorb.
, Orthrelm embraces repetition.... sort of. While metal still undeniably influences Mick and Josh’s music, this new recording equally evokes flavors of the Middle East and the early minimalism of Tony Conrad. Orthrelm’s music, always played at breakneck speed on guitar and drums only, is an enlivened mix of technical metal and crazed composition. Compared to Barr's similar solo guitar/drum machine project, Octis, Orthrelm are pushing the envelope into orbit, lengthening their songs, extrapolating the absurdity. Some parts sound like a CD stuck in the midth of a Steve Vai’s or Joe Satriani’s guitar solo. The ridiculous speed and skill are evident, but Orthrelm add a heavy dose of grumpy “fuck you” punk aggression. Mick Barr’s guitar sounds are super distorted – in an “I-can-see-the-whites-of-the-eyes”, over-the-top-manic sort of way. Pure shredding. His precision and technical mastery are astounding. Josh Blair’s drums are pure finesse as they pulse and flail in line with the guitar’s destructive motifs.
Orthrelm pieces are always precisely measured out compositions. Playing live, Barr and Blair are remarkably still and focused. They get up on stage, play a non-stop half hour set and then leave. It’s easiest to describe their music as an unsolvable mathematical theorem – nearly impossible to comprehend, yet beautiful and compelling all the same.
Orthrelm loosely belong to some undercurrent of the US independent music scene best outlined by bands like Lightning Bolt, The Locust, Wolf Eyes, Thrones or the Blood Brothers, other references could be Ruins and Melt Banana from Japan – a raging positive energy, bliss for speed and thrashing noise being the most obvious common characteristics of those artists. Besides being the one half of Orthrelm, Mick Barr also plays guitar for the Flying Luttenbachers. Orthrelm have performed with James Plotkin’s Phantomsmasher, Black Dice, Single Unit and the like.