Suit up astronauts, we’re going for a 47-minute trek in the depths of With Our Arms to the Sun’s newest and most courageously experimental effort, Orenda. The incredibly vast 10-track LP can best be described as cinematic space-grunge/post-metal/psychedelic-rock. Crafted in the dry deserts of Arizona and released on April 20, the album pays tribute to grunge and prog-rock while still maintaining a modern metal sound. Orenda is the band’s most brave and exploratory collection, offering a blend of naked vulnerability and intense chaos. A dynamic leap in instrumental intelligence has allowed for each member of WOATTS to flourish.
Orenda is an Iroquois word that describes a spiritual power that passes through all things and is capable of being used in varying powers according to each spirit. With that added insight, special meaning can be given to each song and their respective lyrics. Buzz Osborne of The Melvins crafted the LP with bassist Joseph Breckenridge, composing intricate maneuvers through light and dark as listeners move from one song to the next. The album is separated into four parts, with three interludes providing a smooth transition to the next. These parts all center around a certain stage of advancement. The use of structural evolution separated by idylls marks that this album’s unique conceptual techniques go beyond more than a mere song. The entire album in and of itself is a story, complete with an introduction, conflict, climax, and resolution.
Part one consists of ‘Disdain: Why Am I?’ and ‘Memory: The Drift’. This is the introduction of the album and a mighty one at that. ‘Disdain: Why Am I?’ jumps out of the gate with a wide-open riff. This track gives a taste of the central sound of the album, eccentrically heavy and attentively grandiose. This track features vocalist/guitarist Josh Breckenridge’s defining voice transitioning from rough to smooth, to ambient, and then right back to rough. His vocal stylings are reminiscent of Deftones’ Chino Moreno. The piece has an overall ad hoc feel, with each emotion produced lasting only a short while before blistering to the next one. The second track, ‘Memory: The Drift’, eases into a beautifully chilling guitar part that segues into an ambient experimental-rock section. In a flash, we find ourselves on the other end of the spectrum, in awe of the Josh Breckenridge and guitarist Joseph Leary’s major riffage. This is THE track of the album. The heavy parts are downright insane and the easy-listening parts are as smooth as jazz. First impressions are everything, and part one of this album is WOATTS presenting themselves at their finest.
Kicking off with interlude ‘Doorway to Clarity’ comes part two. Rumbling bass lines, slow-dancing guitars, and unintelligible speaking makes this segue a haunting piece. The true composition power of co-producers Osborne and Breckenridge is unleashed in the three soft-spoken idylls that separate the stages of evolution. Joseph Breckenridge brings his heavy bass riffs to the fighting lines to not only ‘Doorway to Clarity’, but to all of part two. ‘Macrocosm: Prometheus’ is one of the more technically challenging pieces, disguising an unconquerable time signature with an equally dazing guitar lick. With the entire group in play, the track’s irregular pulse becomes invisible. High-octane fuzz drives the apex of the piece, teasing chaos, but never truly letting go. Part two, while small, plays a pivotal role in the conceptual development of the album.
‘Doorway to Realization’ is a ballad that requires tissues and a box of chocolates before you can move on. A softer side of Breckenridge’s voice duets with a piano here, presenting vulnerability that can’t be learned. While the album has some piano and synth parts, this is the first track to have it play a key role, and it’s a welcomed change of pace. Part three represents the climax and mercilessly kicks you to the floor with psychedelics, vulnerability, and brute force. Much of the album features heavy riffs, screaming, and in-your-face drums, but the part that really separates WOATTS is the meticulously concocted mellow parts, which are concentrated mostly in this section of the album. Following the palette cleanser, listeners fall into the grace of ‘Apex: 100 Year Dream’. This track focuses intently on psychedelic aspects, throwing nods to old arts while using them in reinvigorating ways. Breckenridge’s voice accompanies a repetitive guitar part on a voyage through the clouds, leaving the audience with an ethereal feeling. Chanting has become a popular norm in almost every style, but ‘The War: Light the Shadows’ disregards the modern use and kicks it old school with Gregorian chants in the beginning, and then morphs those into what sounds like a thousand Vikings chanting while storming a beach. Integrating this into the song gives it a new voice. The concentration on harmonies across the composition gives an added kick to the explosive culmination of the number.
Following suit with the rest of the interludes, ‘Doorway to Ascension’ is a quaint track that focuses on composure more than a technicality. The lovely addition of spoken word poetry creates a powerful effect. The use of a major key throughout this track helps symbolize the resolution of the album. Quickly, the song fades into ‘Regret: Sailing Stones‘, a rather chill song compared to the rest of the LP. Breckenridge’s voice plays with the guitar, in the beginning, complementing each other in a slight build. As the quake hits, Breckenridge and Leary switch in the clean-cut guitars for heavy distortion. Blasting riffs, heavy drums, and Breckenridge’s booming voice have become warm familiarities throughout, and are just as welcome in this track. Once the heaviness hits, it sticks with you, causing a great amount of whiplash from the inevitable headbanging.
The finale, ‘Homebound: March of the Trees‘, takes every great part of the album and throws it into one. A blistering guitar backs up a variety of noises erupting from Breckenridge’s vocal chords. The album ends on a powerfully heavy note. A two-ton breakdown hits at the very end, turning violence into utter chaos. Ending the tale on such a great note creates suspense, one that we can only hope that will have a sequel sometime soon.
With Our Arms to the Sun gained huge recognition in 2015 due to their breakout release, A Far Away Wonder, and performed with acts like John 5, Tool, Primus, and Coheed & Cambria and gained several award nominations. Orenda is their next big step to success, showing a constant evolution in every musical sense. Cosmic in form, these songs feature guitar harmonies and heavy bass lines. The mixture leaves an ethereal feeling in your heart, and a yearning to hear more. WOATTS have announced the beginning of their ascension to rock royalty with the album, and personally, I can’t wait to see how they plan on topping this album. Every song has a purpose. All filler has been replaced with true sustenance, which is a breath of fresh air in a world where musicianship has taken a back seat to popularity. Orenda is a breath of fresh air.
Written by: Sawyer Click