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Semaphore: On and Off Record With Black Orchid Empire


To say that London's Black Orchid Empire are a project of many intricate components would be a bit of an understatement. Since their formation last decade, the trio have presented a new shade of prog rock that's formed of acrobatic vocals, calculated progression, tech-metal heft, arena-pop-rock swells and unhindered scope. One could say the band are a chemical combination of bands such as Tesseract, InMe, Biffy Clyro, Coheed & Cambria, VOLA and Toothgrinder. Yet whilst they wouldn't be incorrect in such a description, it certainly wouldn't be a detailed enough assessment.

Showcasing this is the group's monumental new record Semaphore. A sci-fi epic of a concept record that's abound to resonate with fans of the aforementioned Coheed, the album contains all the unique moving parts that form Black Orchid Empire's sound. To help us know more about the record, guitarist and vocalist Paul Visser got in touch to detail the top five records and top fives pieces of media that help formed the record.

Related: Black Orchid Empire - Semaphore | Album Review

Deftones – Diamond Eyes

"I've loved Deftones since I first heard Adrenaline, and they've always been a huge influence for all of us in Black Orchid Empire. White Pony is one of my all time favourite albums, but I especially love the stride they found with Diamond Eyes – Steph's riff-writing, Abe's insane drum feel and Chino's spacey, word-painting lyrics are all incredibly inspirational on that record and definitely helped shaped some aspects of Semaphore."

Periphery – Hail Stan

"The production quality, relentless progressiveness and immense technical prowess of Periphery is a combination I don't think has been matched elsewhere. Nolly is a huge inspiration to me as a mix engineer, and the band's ideas are just unfailingly huge in scope – none more so on P4. We also really resonate with the similarly DIY approach they have, self producing, recording and mixing. It was awesome to have Ermin Hamidovich (Periphery, Architects, Animals as Leaders) master Semaphore too, he has the best ears I've ever known."

Black Peaks - Statues

"A relatively new heavy band, Black Peaks won me over instantly with their first album and I've been a fan ever since. They have a real sense of frantic energy in their writing, and I love how effectively they use dynamics. A lot of songs on Semaphore draw influence from them, especially the more mellow sections in 'Motorcade' and the bouncy riffs in 'Faces'."

Karnivool – Sound Awake

"Sound Awake deserves to be considered as one of the high watermarks for what a progressive heavy band can achieve. It's sonics are almost peerless (the producer Forrester Savell was also kind enough to provide some mix feedback on Semaphore) and the writing is consistently rhythmically and melodically stunning. It's a huge record for me, as it rightly is for a lot of others."

TesseracT - Polaris

"No one quite does groove like Tesseract, and this album is a beast. They've been a big influence, especially in terms of guitar parts, on Semaphore - I've been a huge fan for many years. The fact that James from the band has handled our PR since Yugen is also awesome – he really gets BOE."

Iain M Banks – Consider Phlebas

"Semaphore is a sci-fi concept record, and no writer has captured my imagination more than Iain M Banks. As a fiction author he was striking, poignant and powerful, but the science fiction worlds he weaved were some the most tangible and thought-provoking playgrounds a young mind could explore – they shaped both my upbringing and adulthood. Consider Phlebas is the book that introduced me to The Culture and Banks' indelible, expansive universe where anything seemed possible. The name of the book is taken from the T.S. Eliot poem The Wasteland, which was also the inspiration for the title of Winter Keeps Us Warm."

Richard K Morgan – Altered Carbon

"I became aware of Morgan's amazing Takeshi Kovacs novels just before Altered Carbon was made into a Netflix show, but I hadn't yet read them. Being introduced to his dystopian vision of the future by the TV series was a great experience, but it was only once I'd read all three Kovacs novels that the true depth of Morgan's creatively brutal world came to life. The song Death From Above is directly based on his idea of humans finding ancient Martian technology as we in the real world have uncovered Egyptian remains. I find Morgan's writing weighty, instantly believable and incredibly influential."

Ridley Scott – Alien

"The Alien movies and the resulting games, graphic novels and other media have been an obsession for me since my teenage years, and I love all of them in different ways. None ever captured the gut-wrenching, genuine terror of the original though, and seeing it for the first time is a memory I will never forget. The way the movie presented space travel as a gritty, dirty, harsh necessity was a satisfying departure from the glamorous or sterile versions depicted in many sci-fi productions until that point. It influenced the narrative of both Singularity and Winter Keeps Us Warm."

Stanley Kubrick – 2001: A Space Odyssey

"This movie is a visual spectacle, and had a huge impact on me. The idea of intelligent machines, benign or otherwise, has since completely permeated the sci-fi universe, but it was this film (along with Blade Runner – another hugely influential movie for me) that introduced me to the concept. The song Monolith is an obvious nod to 2001."

James Cameron - Terminator 2

"The Terminator is a brilliant movie, but I saw the 1991 sequel first, and it's the most special to me. I must have watched the original VHS over twenty times – the cutting edge CGI imagery was unlike anything I'd seen before. The blend of man and machine combined with a complex but satisfying plot involving time travel completely captured me. The song Red Waves is about someone travelling time to exact their revenge – it was heavily influenced by Cameron's work."

Semaphore is out now via Long Branch Records. Purchase the album here.

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