Review/Interview: ORCumentary

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After writing the review/interview for Orcrypt, VUK came to me with a proposition. He suggested that we try and write a trilogy of reviews and interviews centering around the subject of fantasy literature. I found that to be a fantastic idea. After looking around for a suitable candidate, we came across ORCumentary. Hailing from Newington, Connecticut, ORCumentary Consists of one man; Orc Adams. His blend of comedy, fantasy and badass Orc-like attitude thrilled VUK and I quite a bit.

While listening to his new album “Fully ORChestrated,” we were quite impressed, if not a little surprised. Because ORCumentary is not your typical Metal-meets-Tolkien kind of stuff. It does have some crusty edges, ala a stripped down GWAR, or a puffed up version of They Might Be Giants. Could be the mascot from Nekrogoblicon doing Dead Milkmen covers… and with a keyboard and processed orchestration. It is, for lack of better words, Orc-themed Comedy Dungeon Synth with a Metal edge. Comical, but in a way that demands equal amounts of respect to go along with any laughter there is to be had. 

While most songs on this album are songs from past albums (“Destroy The Dwarves,” and “Orcs 1 Goblins 0” in particular) reworked with a symphonic twist, none of them seem like the same song. Each reworking improves upon its original counterpart, and for the better in most cases. As for the new songs appearing on the album (“The Time of the Orc Has Come,” and “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way”), I got the sense that Orc Adams was well versed in the subject matter. Fans of the Rankin/Bass production of “Return of the King” will be familiar with “Where There’s a Whip…” but that’s not necessarily a prerequisite for supreme enjoyment. 

Being quite fond of the fantasy genre ourselves, it was not hard for VUK and I to come to the conclusion to add ORCumentary to our trilogy of fantasy-type reviews and interviews. Thankfully, Orc Adams agreed to answer our questions about this new album, his influences, and everything ORCumentary. Enjoy!

“Fully ORChestrated”

Jonah M – 4/5

VUK – 3.5/5

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Orcumentary is:  Orc Adams. All instruments. Vocals.

Jonah M: Hey man! It’s super cool of you to answer some of the questions we have about your new album “Fully ORChestrated,” and all things ORCumentary. VUK and I really love your style!

VUK: That is correct! Hails, from all of us here at The Metal Wanderlust! 

ORC: Thanks for taking the time to listen to my new album and talk to me about it. I’m excited to get started.

Jonah M:  To begin, can you give us a little background on how you got started, specifically how you came to write about Orcs?

ORC: I started ORCumentary when I was 17, so it’s been part of me for almost exactly half my life. By that point, I had been taking piano lessons for almost 10 years and was starting to get bored. Over the summer of 2006, I did a lot of experimenting writing music. I really had no idea what I was doing; I had never written a song before and didn’t have any musical inspirations I was trying to emulate, so I used the fantasy stories I loved as inspiration and learned how to write music through a lot of trial and error. If anything, writing music was more of an extension of my then-interest in becoming an author. I still have a love of storytelling, but in college it got to a point where I couldn’t split my creative energy between music and writing, so I went with what I thought I was better at and what was more fun. I think I made the right choice.

I was still wildly obsessed with “Lord of the Rings,” and at one point I made a croak which resembled an Orc voice. I thought it was really funny and had the idea of doing songs in this voice about Orcs. I wrote a few songs and realized I enjoyed it, so I called it ORCumentary

As I was coming up with story ideas and characters to write songs about, I thought about writing a song about an orc superhero. I wanted a name that sounded kinda corny, like Flash Gordon, and then I came up with Orc Adams. After trying to think of what kind of songs would tell the story of this character, I thought “what if I’m the Orc hero? What if I am an Orc that sings songs about Orcs?” And that snowballed into eventually writing songs about “my” adventures in one, huge story that spanned multiple albums, in addition to playing live shows as this character. 

VUK: The majority of the songs from “Fully ORChestrated” are reworked versions of older tunes. My personal favorites are “Goblin Death March,” and “The Betrayer’s Song” (though, admittedly, I often feel like an Orc while in my bathtub, so I can relate to that one personally). Can you tell us more about the route you took in choosing which songs to “ORCchestrate?”

ORC: I did a lot of experimenting to see which songs would take kindly to the ORChestrated treatment. There were some I knew would fit perfectly, some that I thought would work well that didn’t make the cut, and others surprised me by fitting right in.

Because I had almost no experience writing strictly symphonic music, I approached it the same way I usually approach song writing: I’d test an idea by starting with the song’s main melody/riff and adding all the supporting instruments around it. If it “worked,” I kept going until it didn’t, or until I made it to the end. Obviously, a standard drum set is going to sound different than timpani, and strings and brass work differently than guitars and bass, so it wasn’t always a 1:1 re-arrangement. It was a huge challenge, and I pushed myself really hard, but I learned a lot and am extremely proud of the result. 

This album commemorates fifteen years of ORCumentary, so I wanted each of my past 4 releases to be represented. It’s part “greatest hits,” part “songs I like,” and part “this song will sound good ORChestrated”. It was natural to think of the overall flow of the album when selecting the track list as well.

VUK: “Orcs on Ice,” to my ears, sounds the most like its original counterpart. You certainly expand on that a great deal in the newer version. Does the newer recording come closer to your original vision for the tune? 

ORC: Yes, I agree that this song is expanded on in the new arrangement, and the ideas are just generally expressed better in an ORChestrated setting. “Orcs on Ice” was the first piano ballad that I ever wrote. A decade of songwriting experience since then, and having a whole new arsenal of instruments to work with, allowed me to really go crazy with the arrangement and double down on that song’s melodic side.

Jonah M: “The time of the Orc Has Come” is the only new (original) song on the album. A really cool tune, certainly, but it got me thinking about The Lord of the Rings movies, as that’s a line from “Return of the King.” Additionally, “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way” is from the Rankin/Bass animated version of “Return of the King.” Can you tell us more about how these films have influenced you, and do you have plans to record any more songs like this in the future?

ORC: The LOTR films had a transformative effect on me as a teenager. I was a big reader and loved fantasy (though I hadn’t read LOTR before), but there was something about the films that really unlocked my imagination. Fantasy films before then were generally cheaply made with poor storytelling, but with LOTR, everything felt so real. They just drew you in and really made you feel like you were in a world that existed for thousands of years before and would exist long after you were gone. I’ve seen them so many times over the years and I get something new out of each viewing. I first loved them because they told a great story and had these huge battle scenes, but on my most recent viewings, my favorite parts were the Shire scenes in “Fellowship” and “Return of the King” from when Frodo reunites with the surviving Fellowship members until the end. I could go at length talking about what these films mean to me, but you have other questions we need to get to.

I can’t say I’m too fond of any other Middle-Earth films though. The Hobbit trilogy would have been good if each of the three films shaved an hour off the run time. I have seen parts of the animated trilogy, but I haven’t had the urge to subject myself to them in full yet. The animated Hobbit film was decent though.

As for recording any other songs like “Where There’s A Whip” in the future, a super-secret cover should be online soon, if it isn’t already by the time this review is published. I’m not familiar with many other “Orcish” songs, but I’m always open to doing a cover if it fits the theme. 

Over the years, I’ve had ideas to do parody songs, where the lyrics are changed to be about Orcs. Unfortunately, none of these ideas so far are good enough to actually follow through on.

Jonah M: While listening to your previous album, “Destroy the Dwarves” it seems clear the  orcs in the album’s story have a special hatred for Dwarves. Why this their an aversion to Dwarves? 

ORC: It’s not exclusive to Dwarves. The album “Orcs 1 Goblins 0” was about the quest to overthrow the Goblins. The next album will actually be about taking down the Elves (and I also have a song called “Fuck the Elves”). Orcs hate essentially anyone that isn’t an Orc, though they are somewhat friendly with Trolls. There’s a big backstory about why things are the way they are in The Five Lands, but that will be told on the next album. The very quick version is that Orcs have gotten a raw deal since their creation. They rebelled, lost, and have been in the shitter, per se, for centuries. Through a series of events, Orc Adams gets anointed as a Hero of the Orcs and sets out to overthrow the free peoples of The Five Lands and institute a regime of Orc Supremacy.

VUK: I’ve got a vision in my head. Sort of my own ‘Orcumentary,’ if you will: In the beginning, I see one Orc with a keyboard doing open mic nights in New England. His well-crafted, catchy, and hilarious music slowly awards him a devoted following. Soon he’s headlining gigs, playing to bigger rooms, eventually gaining enough notoriety to allow him to hire a whole group of Orcs. Together, they tour the world, spreading their pro-Orc message to the masses. Will Orc Adams always be a solo act? 

ORC: Many things would need to change in order for me to not be a solo act. I don’t even have a manager or anything; I do essentially everything myself. There are a number of reasons why turning ORC into a full band now wouldn’t be viable, but it might be if it got big enough where there were big gig opportunities across the country and beyond. I think there’s a lot of potential and it could happen. “Fully ORChestrated” is a new beginning and it’s sure to open a lot of doors, so we’ll see what happens a couple years down the line.

VUK: Assuming the COVID crisis allows for travel in the coming months, what does touring look like for you? I’d imagine there would be a great deal of opportunity in that area, because you could play at comedy clubs as well as music venues. 

ORC: I don’t think the whole ORCsperience would lend itself well to a comedy club, but it could work very well at, say, comic-cons. I’ve played close to 200 shows all over New England and beyond over the years, but being a solo artist in the metal world that plays live has all sorts of challenges. Going forward, I believe I’ll be pretty selective when it comes to shows. I burned myself out pretty bad a few years ago, to the point where I wasn’t sure if ORC would continue, and I would prefer to go for the “quality over quantity” approach.

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Jonah M: Well, I would certainly go and see you play live. I would love to see an Orc singing songs in a club! Thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Do you have any last thoughts for our readers? I’m sure they would love to hear what you have coming up next for Orcumentary.

ORC: Thank you for your thoughtful questions and for listening to the album. I will do at least one livestream show this year: my annual Super Bowl Alternative Halftime Show (III) (livestream during the televised halftime show) on Feb. 7th. Beyond that, I’ve started doing some demos for the next album and I have some surprises planned for later this year! Thanks again, and keep Orc Rock alive!

https://www.facebook.com/ORCumentaryOfficial

https://orcumentary.bandcamp.com/

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