When one is lacking in moral fiber, it is often said that such a person is, “A few miracles short of sainthood.” Well, if the criteria for sainthood is experiencing miracles (even though many would say I am lacking in moral fiber), I have attained it in excelsis for I experienced the miralcle, who was Ryan Kickland, in 1999; the miracle, which was The Darkness, in 2002; and the miracle, which was Dawn of the Proto-Man, in 2003.
The story of Dawn of the Proto-Man by Ogre is sadly the story of many a Rock recording during the 2000s. Like a dog returning to its own vomit, the Rock-listening public was too busy lapping up the latest offerings by Puddle of Mudd and Creed to notice the acres of Rock gems all around it, and so Dawn of the Proto-Man, along with many other such recordings, was cruelly thrown down the memory-hole. Hopefully, even though my few meager words can hardly undo the injustices of the past, they can, at least, shed a few rays of light on such a great record.
The first track is simply titled Ogre. It starts off with a sinister-sounding bass-riff bubbling up to the surface. As if in sardonic assent, the bass-motif is doubled an octave higher by the guitar. Soon, the entire song erupts into a musical fracas: the perfect musical analog to two Ogre tribes fighting it out. What is more, like wah-drenched grapeshot, Ross Markonish's guitar solo strafes and singes the listener's ears. To describe the song another way, imagine a scene in a film, where two Neanderthal teams were playing a game of hockey with a skull as the puck; this song would make the perfect soundtrack for it.
Imagine Eric Bloom and Alex Harvey having a barbecue with Godzilla playing on the TV in the background; these are the ingredients that make up the next tune Colossus. With yet another sinister riff sidling up to the listener's ears, the song tells of a giant being from outer-space come to bequeath its advanced knowledge to mankind, only to be rudely rebuffed by military assault. While en route from its vengeful rampage, Colossus apparently takes a left turn at Woodstock, as the song ends with a raucous Ten Years After-style jam. Alvin Lee would be proud.
The year is 1978; the scene is of two boys just having concluded an exhiliarting hike though the sylvan majesty that are the forests of Maine. Feeling willowy after having smoked copious amounts of weed, the two are at one with nature and with gonja. One of the boys has a cozy house to which the two adjourn. Their bodies practically melt into the sofa they are sitting on, as they watch an espisode In Search Of, leaving them to wonder about the mysteries of the universe. After In Search Of ends, one of the boys says, “Hey, let's have a jam session.” While one straps on a guitar and the other a bass, they proceed to rock the night away. These are the images that come to mind when I listen to 78, a devil-may-care romp through the glories of yesteryear. A joyous boogie, it has soft/hard dynamincs akin to Whole Lotta Rosie and sportively rocking guitar-figures Buck Dharma would not have minded nixing.
If ever there was a song written to drive home the adage Hannibal ad portas, it was The Jaded Beast. Its main riff, undulating and churning forth like some eldritch mist, tells of people in old Europe living in mortal fear of the hordes of the East, which lay right across the border with them. Like Blue Oyster Cult, Ogre combines heavy music with intelligent lyrics to create one masterpiece of a tune. Add to that a plaintive guitar solo by Ross Markonish and a buoyant outro (like the dawn rising up after a night of carnage?), and one has quite the formidable song.
The fifth track Skeletonized features an exquisitely sculpted riff by Markinosh. When it's time to write the money riff folks, this is how it's done. A song about the decaying of the body after death, who knew the transitoriness of life rocked so hard?
The penultimate track is Suicide Ride. An uptempo number, it is a musical dogfight with guitar riffs swooping and streaming past one's ears with Kyuss-like energy.
Lastly, we have the song Black Death. With its ominous, phase-drenched guitar figures by Ross Markinosh and its equally ominous Gregorian-like chanting, the song then churns and plods its way toward the listener with its Sabbath-like motifs, a fitting coda to this dark masterpiece of an album.
The fact is, Dawn of the Proto-Man is a perfect record: perfect album cover; perfect songs; perfect themes; perfect performances; and perfect production. What a shame that the soundtrack to my time as a data entry operator in 2003 wasn't the soundtrack of the entire country. Instead we got...well you know the rest.
Ogre on Bandcamp
OGRE Thrice as Strong, released 25 October 2019 1. The Future 2. Hive Mind 3. Big Man 4. Judgement Day 5. Blood of Winter 6. King of the Wood 7. Cyber-Czar