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Can Chris Cornell’s Absence Be Filled? Unfair Comparisons and Standing Out

O.R.k’s ‘Screamnasium’ is familiar rock but also something more!

Any rock fan might easily listen to O.R.k’s newest album and think, “This sounds like Audioslave”. The lead work on ‘Don’t Call Me a Joke’ is instantly recognizable as a Tom Morello-styled noise flourish. The belted vocals on ‘As I Leave’ harkens back to the halcyon days when Chris Cornell was still amongst us.  There’s a delight and comfort in the nostalgia. For O.R.k these comparisons are a great foot in the door to pique the interest of the uninitiated. The problem is these comparisons are profoundly unfair and while they can be an effective entry, they can also become an obstacle to standing on their own.

               How does a vocalist’s name become known (in this case Lef) when he is constantly compared to one of the consensus greatest vocalists of all time? Truly, there is no higher company one could be regarded in than the late great Chris Cornell.

The question is, how many times can Lef hear these comparisons before flattery shifts into annoyance?

To be clear, ‘Screamnasium’ is not a copy of Audioslave or Soundgarden. There are tons of unique musical passages on display, it’s only when the harder rock sections rise that the belting and guitar fireworks occur. The issue and the blessing is that O.R.k is so skilled at building to these moments, they ensue frequently.

               The query to dear readers and listeners is would we want O.R.k to steer away from these comparisons or encourage them? We enjoy these sections and would we have found this music without them? There’s certainly enough original material inside to avoid juxtaposition to what a band like Greta Van Fleet does.

It would be interesting to know if the O.R.k even has ambitions or designs on surpassing these comparisons, they are after all working quite well for them. Hopefully, fans will come for the Cornell and stay for the progressive and extraordinary musical departures provided by former Porcupine Tree and King Crimson members. There are genuinely uncommon exhibitions of musical artistry on songs like ‘Someone Waits’.

For a review of ‘Screamnasium’ click the link here but on the abstract side; how do we as fans surpass the natural human compunction to compare new things to previous benchmarks? Is this even a desirable pursuit?

I suppose as long as these inevitable habits don’t preclude us from enjoying legitimately exceptional art we should leave the philosophy at the door and live in the moment for a while. That is the moment now that feels so much like the beloved past.

Jon Barbas.

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