Orphan Donor is the solo project of Jared Stimpfl from Pennsylvanian sludge/grind outfit, Secret Cutter. Like Navene Koperweis of Entheos, Stimpfl is a drummer by trade but plays guitar and bass to an advanced level. No doubt, he could also execute competent vocals but decided to give that responsibility to Chris Pandolfo of Clouds Collide. Together the pair might just have recorded the heaviest record of the year.
Take a glass of water and make sure your ears are free from wax before you press the play button for the opening notes of ‘Pendulum Grip’. This song will destroy you if you’re not ready for the scorching volume of the dissonant chords and screamed vocals. The grinding tempo and atonal guitars mimic the malfunctioning sound of the ED-209 droid at the beginning of Robocop. (We’re talking about the intimidating cyborg that massacres a helpless executive in the boardroom if you need reminding.) You won’t even notice the stop-start nature of the music due to its colossal intensity. Imagine Neurosis playing mathcore, and you’re still not even close.
‘Death Exploit’ starts with the same discordant aggression of Autarkh and throbs like Gorguts experimenting with hardcore. Playing out of key is not as easy as it appears, as anyone who attempted Nirvana’s ‘Milk It’ in their youth can testify. Here Stimpfl frets guitar notes that should not be combined. With Pandolfo’s belting screams, it recreates the horror people must experience when their passenger plane shakes with extreme turbulence and starts to nose-dive. The monumental hostility of the sonic assault feels like you’re being sucked into a vortex. Or to use another analogy: think of the fear you feel when you get to 13,500 feet and realise the sponsored skydive you volunteered for no longer looks as appealing when the cockpit door opens. The force of the high-altitude pressure against your face is how Orphan Donor treat you as a listener – this is the unadulterated torment of fear and extreme nausea.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of Unraveled is its ability to unearth sporadic melodies among the carnage of distorted noise and deafening screams. ‘Forever Unseen’ and ‘Unravelling’ offer glimpses of light among the hyper aggression, although the former could be the rage inside the head of an incel in the moment before he shoots up a sorority house full of beautiful blonde girls. (NB: There’s no equivalent in England because of the near impossibility of purchasing a firearm and the alien concept of a sorority house.) Whether you call it post-metal, post-hardcore or sludge-grind, there’s only one thing they have in common – this music is fucking heavy! The bass guitar resembles a fracking drill burrowing into the earth on ‘You Were Alive’ and ‘Mr Friend, the Hornet’. The band will need permission from the US Environmental Protection Agency before they bring this to the live stage.
Shades of atmospheric black metal creep through on more than one occasion, but the bedroom outcasts in corpse paint should take notes of Pandolfo’s vocal style on this record. This is how you rage in front of a microphone. There’s no wimpish rasp here like a dying rhinoceros, just pure fucking agony ramped up to deafening noise levels. The eleven minutes of closing track, ‘Celestial Mourning’, even grant you some respite, switching between mathcore and shoegaze and a dark descent into Inter Arma territory. Yet the last five minutes end with the eerie ambience of jagged machine noises that belch like the zap of a pylon cable subjected to hurricane winds. You can now come to terms with your trauma and let the exhaustion reduce your grief.
Stimpfl said his aim was to delve further into the realms of psychosis on this album. You wouldn’t wish this type of psychotic episode on your worst enemy. This is art.
Release Date: 11/06/2021
Record Label: Zegema Beach Records
Standout tracks: Pendulum Grip, Unravelling, Celestial Mourning
Suggested Further Listening: End You – Aimless Dread (2021), Isis – Oceanic (2002), Rorcal & Earthflesh – Witches Coven (2021)