THEY'RE BACK Ogre bursts back on the scene with The Last Neanderthal, the trio's first full-length release
What’s the continuing allure of the Odyssey, the Roman and Greek gods, the days of swords and shields and bloody stumps? Heck, the Bible? What explains the baseline human desire for a touchpoint with history?
Leave it to Skynyrd to provide a rational voice: “Tuesday’s gone, with the wind.” Yesterday ain’t coming back. And yet we continue to construct today out of the vestiges of the past.
It’s this primal thread that Ogre pulls on with The Last Neanderthal, the heavy-rock trio’s first release since 2008’s Plague of the Planet and their fourth full-length overall. With eight songs in total — well, seven plus a 45-second instrumental introduction — it is aptly named, tapping into our gnawing fear that guttural, physical rock ‘n’ roll is going the way of the dinosaur.
But not if Ogre have something to say about it.
Their love for big guitar solos and bigger Ed Cunningham vocals, fantastical storylines woven through their songs, and long, drawn-out epics that move from point A to point B with no sign of a chorus, are still fully on display here. It’s fair to call them prog, and some will paint them with a metal brush, but their core is good old-fashioned heavy rock, the kind Led Zeppelin rang in and that has been carried through by the likes of locals like Murcielago and Clubber Lang.
Play loud. Sing loud. Get pretty and thoughtful every once in a while. Be loud again. Repeat. Enjoy.
You can spend much of this album just waiting in rapt anticipation for a Ross Markonish guitar solo. His work here is absolutely entertaining as hell, always with mood and feeling, and always coming right for your throat.
His best work is on “Soulless Woman,” a cover of a song originally written by a ’70s band out of Idaho also called Ogre (they got in touch — the Internet is like magic and shit). It’s great to hear Cunningham change up his delivery into a more nasal, punkish rant and the punch of Markonish’s solo is head-turning. Abel Adame captures it with tons of body and just a touch of room echo, while Acadia Recording’s Marc Bartholomew mixes it right on top of the chunked chords so it’s all you can possibly pay attention to.
Then, right when you’re sort of marveling at the song’s circular logic — “She’s a soulless woman and I want you to know/ She ain’t got no soul” — here comes a second guitar solo, this time full of arpeggio runs, with maybe a Van Halen nod, and fading into the finish.
That came out of Idaho? Of course, everybody who hears Ogre for the first time is like, “This is what’s going on in Maine?”
Pretty much. There’s plenty of “Iron Man” in the open to “Bad Trip,” but the boil-down at 2:30 into just a few of Cunningham’s bass notes is delicious, with Will Broadbent walking the song back in with a few snares and cymbals, like the whole song is completely hammered: “In your tar-paper shack on the edge of town/ Your dealer-man says, ‘Lay your money down, punk.’” Cunningham actually chuckles into the big return and then Markonish’s solo here is panicked, frightened, moving like an animal that wants out.