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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

CD Review: Orange Sky - Dat Iz Voodoo

Orange Sky - Dat Iz Voodoo
2008 Star City Recording Company
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Chances are if you're familiar with Trinidad's Orange Sky, you likely caught these reggae-splashed headbangers opening for Yngwie Malmsteen a couple years ago as this writer did. In fact, I was sent to the show specifically to interview Orange Sky and they were up to the task of warming over Yngwie's crowd, even with their decidedly apposite style of sun-baked hard rock compared to Malmsteen's Bach-laced stage conservatory.

In what was one of my favorite all-time interviews, the Orange Sky guys hung with me at the bar after the gig and we had a terrific chat in which the Rojas brothers took most of the lead and these fun-loving ambassadors of peace were such the hit they were constantly asked for photographs as we interviewed. Nigel Rojas struck me as a powerful bear of a man with a gentle soul, while his younger brother Nicholas was still the more party-minded of the siblings. Still, the dominant attribute to the dreadlocked rockers was their message of hope through straightforward, calypso and rasta-tinted heavy music. Lots of laughter and even a slipped fart (the guilty party won't be flagged this time) as my tape rolled and I left the venue in a great mood, which is how I originally left Orange's Sky's debut album from 2005 Upstairs the first time I spun it. The scene could do well with more laidback spirits like these.

Three years later, Orange Sky are back with their follow-up album Dat Iz Voodoo and instantly the differentiating factor to this band rests on the fact that Orange Sky is now a much harder band. Still maintaining their vibes of goodwill, Orange Sky nonetheless amps things up considerably on Dat Iz Voodoo, which may delight a lot of newcomers to these guys, much less their existing fanship. With less overt reggae and island nuances to Dat Iz Voodoo, Orange Sky adds more meat chunks to their sound on cuts like "Alone," "Roses" and the beat-laden "Psycho World."

This is not to say that Orange Sky has turned purely metal this time around, but Dat Iz Voodoo has more teeth in the way eighties rockers 24-Z Spyz flashed for the metal community to take notice of. Even digging into the Bad Brains' arsenal of riff destruction on "Dark Room," Nigel Rojas uses the bobbing groove of the song to scat along quick-lipped like a house vocalist, much as he does throughout Dat Iz Voodoo. Despite the fact "Never" comes off like an erratic ballad with reserved, whispery verses, the song erupts with a tremendous and beautiful guitar solo section from Nigel Rojas and Dion Howe, the latter who replaces the departed Adam Murray.

Orange Sky also takes on the Scorpions' "Is There Anybody There?" with near-perfect accuracy, particularly since the original song's reggae-ska skritch lends itself snugly to a tropical band like Orange Sky.

One thing about Dat Iz Voodoo is that it searches for melody wherever the Rojas brothers can expoit them and for the most part, the retooled Orange Sky for 2008 have turned into better songwriters. Though not always on-point, Dat Iz Voodoo is an agreeable sophomore album that exchanges its organic roots for a much louder throb with which to continue building their audience.

Rating: ***1/2


Metal Mark said...

This is an okay album. They bring some decent parts, but they seem a bit hesitant about mixing any styles. Some songs really work and others are just kind of clunky.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Yeah, this wasn't as solid as their debut, and I think it has a lot to do with Adam departing and their experimentation in getting heavier...pretty good, though

Anonymous said...

Similar comments were made back home in T&T when OS started playing this heavier vibe...mixed reactions from outright head banging metal mania to whoa...this sh*t is wack!
Funny thing is that at the same time, Nigel released a soulful, folky, acoustic album called 'To Whom It May Concern' which is polar opposite to Dat is Voodoo. Also, the live shows were similarly schizo as some nights were all reggae with a touch of rock while others were full on raging without relent...
The point is that there is plenty diversity in the songwriting with more to come from these guys...both live and from the studio.
There are alot, and I mean alot of die hard Orange Sky fans that will support this band no matter what direction the music goes. Orange Sky has worked hard to earn that respect...But many of the OS purists out there are quietly waiting for the band to find that happy medium where diverse styles blend to create something new, powerful and irresistable...

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