When Orianthi recently gave an exclusive interview to Guitars Exchange, she provided a big clue as to the direction her new album might be taking: “I have done a lot of pop in the past, my first single was pop, but I am a big fan of many genres of music [….] I have been playing some heavier stuff too, and that’s also been fun,” she said.
Now that O (6 November 2020; Frontiers Music) has arrived we can confirm that what she hinted at was true; she has been playing ‘some heavier stuff’ - and she has been recording it too. Orianthi’s new record is packed full of powerful rock riffs and blues-oriented tracks that clearly draw on her close collaborations with Steve Vai, Carlos Santana, Richie Sambora and Alice Cooper, but it is much more than that; her vocals are rich and often distorted, and she often throws in curveballs, for example, with some unexpected synths or a shift in mood.
Orianthi’s first studio album for seven years sees her joined by drummer and bassist Evan Frederiksen and percussionist and programmer Marti Frederiksen, who has also played a major role in songwriting and production. In fact Marti’s work is evident from the off on the track Contagious, which features various genres and styles, a scorching guitar solo and lyrics that at least on one level seem to reference what the world has gone through this year:“They shall not break us ‘cause hate is contagious,” Orianthi sings with customary passion.
Contagious is followed by the heavier Sinners Hymn, originally released in August, which this time showcases some groovy wah guitar riffs and ice-cold synths. This chill and grittiness is emphasized in Orianthi’s video, which was shot in what looks like a grubby subway station. This track is both cool and edgy and Orianthi nails it perfectly.
Rescue Me is a catchy but slower-paced blues number; Blow features Orianthi’s powerful vocals; while pop-funk and hook-laden Sorry may well yet make the most impact as a single. A sudden change of tempo follows with Crawling Out Of The Dark, which is a lovely ballad that is touching in both its directness and simplicity. The song rewards repeated plays, and its theme of a broken heart will probably help it get them.
Impulsive was released on 2 October 2020, along with a video that showed Orianthi’s fun side with her both dressing up and enjoying dancing along with her band. The song was described by one critic as “a car driver’s anthem” because of its powerful bass line, and, at least on the video, the performance also features her sumptuous Goldtop PRS custom 24.
The album closes with Company and Moonwalker; the former again showcasing various genres while the latter may perhaps be an allusion to Orianthi’s time working with ‘the king of pop’, Michael Jackson. Both are strong tracks and provide a satisfying end to the album; as soon as it ended, I happily flicked straight back to the start, to listen to it again.
O is the story of Orianthi’s versatility and direction of purpose. The expected big guitar riffs and solos are present alongside gentler acoustic-driven tracks; her voice is powerful and varied; and the songs are often both catchy, but also catch you by surprise in the turns they take. In sum, O is a very welcome addition to this talented Australian’s discography.