The Orcish Eclipse

rating icon 3 / 10

Track listing:

01. When I Fall
02. Orcs Don't Cry
03. Hammers High
04. Beauty of the Night
05. Into the Void
06. We Navigate
07. Feel the Night
08. Coming Home
09. Nightfall
10. Endless Love

If any further proof were needed that the world has gone mad, "The Orcish Eclipse" may be it. This, in case you have better things to do than spend all day on the internet, is the first AI-generated heavy metal album. Created by a German company called Musical Bits, FROSTBITE ORCKINGS are not a real band and every last note on their debut album has been conjured using the latest mind-bending technologies, seemingly in an attempt to prove that music made by machines can have a similar appeal and impact to the real thing. It was always going to happen, once the AI genie had been released from the bottle, and if nothing else, "The Orcish Eclipse" is a fun idea brought fully to fruition by massive nerds who at least seem to have decent motives.

For those of us that only have a limited understanding of how all this actually works, this at least seems to be a product of potentially scary tech that has a purpose beyond distorting public discourse and conning people into believing the patently untrue. The cartoon, sci-fi avatars and attendant mythology are all entirely in keeping with modern power metal's more fantastic excesses, and FROSTBITE ORCKINGS have already scored plenty of attention via their excellent, animated videos, which suggests that there is a credible market for this. At the very least, one could foresee some kind of DETHKLOK-style, online ubiquity for a project like this. Welcome to the Metalverse. Just a bit of fun, folks. No need to panic.

But then comes the reality. "Crafted by AI trained in-house, in harmonious collaboration with the insights of real musicians", "The Orcish Eclipse" is an ambitious flight of fancy, but has all that technological experimentation led to a genuinely kickass metal album? Yes, to a degree, but also no. Superficially, this is a decent, if somewhat predictable blast of furious, semi-symphonic power metal with the heaviness and gruff vocals of melodic death metal. If you don't pay too much attention to their lyrics (which are absolute nonsense of the highest order),&nbsp FROSTBITE ORCKINGS could easily be passed off as another aspiring metal band with a passing resemblance to the likes of WARKINGS, BLOODBOUND and (vocally, at least) AMON AMARTH.

Unfortunately, closer inspection reveals that there is very little musical substance lurking behind the dazzling, multimedia artifice. Combine that with the inevitable, looming specter of thoroughly justified cynicism (what, you may ask yourself, and reasonably so, is the actual point of all this?),&nbsp and "The Orcish Eclipse" swiftly comes undone. Songs like opener "When I Fall" and "Hammers High" are enjoyable enough on a surface level, with their catchy-ish choruses, overblown arrangements and high production values, but dig a little deeper and there is nothing here to suggest that AI-generated metal albums could have any advantage over real music made by real people. In fact, as the album progresses, it becomes more and more obvious that these songs merely sound like subpar facsimiles of the genuine article. Riffs veer from straight-ahead and simplistic to wayward and aimless. The drums (mixed in such a way as to make METALLICA's "Death Magnetic" sound like a spartan field recording) are technically impressive but utterly without nuance or ingenuity. The vocals offer a solid pastiche of the archetypal growling frontman, but again, the lyrics sound like they have been produced via some calamitous Google Translate process, which rather amplifies the plastic, sterile soullessness of it all. Most importantly, once the AI novelty wears off (somewhere around the semi-likeable "We Navigate"),&nbsp an overwhelming sense of pointlessness descends, and the urge to listen to something created by real musicians becomes irresistible.

This is still worth a listen, if only to confirm that we have nothing to fear from such futuristic conceits. But despite the innovation behind it, "The Orcish Eclipse" is a big, noisy folly with a yawning void where its heart should be.

Author: Dom Lawson
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