Order of Nine - A means to know end 3.5/5

Reviewed: 7-11-08


1. Single shot
2. A means to know end
3. Devotee
4. The the know
5. An offered hand
6. Ghost of memories
7. Gods at war
8. Ninth knight
9. Show no remorse
10. Last dance

There's a pretty unflattering rating/comment of Order of Nine's last CD, 'Season of reign', penned by yours truly, in the database of this website. For that reason, it was most surprising to be contacted by the band's current drummer, JR Jameson, via email a couple of months ago. Rather than berating me for my poor taste or making unsavory remarks about my mother or my mental acuity, Jameson simply indicated that he had seen our unfavorable disposition toward 'Season of reign' and asked if we might be willing to give Order of Nine another chance by checking out their new CD, 'A means to know end'. He mentioned that there's been some significant turnover in the band and that they've shifted direction somewhat since 'Season of reign', so we might like it. Totally impressed by the classiness and professionalism of this message, I happily agreed to listen to 'A means to know end' with an open mind.

Sure enough, the latest Order of Nine is a quantum leap over its predecessor, in terms of songwriting, musical direction and performances. My sense is that the new line-up hasn't completely gelled yet, as they still seem to be refining their sound, but the basic style is classic U.S. metal constructed around sturdy, crunchy, in-your-face guitar riffs that remind me in places of acts like Meliah Rage, Steel Prophet, Jag Panzer, Metal Church, or even non-galloping Iced Earth. But Order of Nine are not a straightforward in their approach as any of these mentioned acts, as there's still a fair amount of experimenting around the edges. In some places, they sound slightly progressive a la vintage Queensryche (although this certainly isn't a prog CD). In others, they sound heavy enough that there's at least a mild thrash influence, although there is not a great deal of speed on display. At times, they toy with spoken word passages, somber acoustic parts, or airy keyboard bits, but 'A means to know end' is predominantly rooted in the classic U.S. metal style with riffs and riffs galore.

There are a couple of make-or-break factors here. With respect to the vocals, I was not enthused with Michael DeGrena's work on 'Season of reign', but he does a fine job here. Honestly, he doesn't sound like anybody else. Sure, there are parts that call to mind Geoff Tate or Mark Vanderbilt, a couple of low-energy deep-voiced parts, as well as some screams that sound a bit like David DeFeis, and even a few growls from time to time, but the high-pitched, slightly straining, melancholy tone where DeGrena spends most of his time is a bit of an acquired taste. The other issue is the songwriting, which remains a bit uneven. Straightahead rockers like "Single shot", "Ninth knight" (my favorite track) and "In the know" work very effectively, but some of the moodier songs don't leave as much of an impression, even after repeated listens. Order of Nine would benefit from writing some catchier choruses (like the great one on "Ninth knight") to go with their treasure trove of killer riffs, injecting a few more bursts of speed to raise the excitement ante, and focusing on their strength (namely, solid meat'n'potatoes U.S. metal) while ditching some of the experimentation.

In short, I'm really glad I was prodded to give Order of Nine another try. They may still be working out the kinks, but this is some really enjoyable U.S. metal graced with monster guitar riffs, unusual vocals, and an intriguing overall approach. And they're classy guys, to boot. A band to watch, indeed.




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