Orphic Grimoire opens with the electric chords of “Dominoes.” Guitar leads listeners into bursts of joining drums and bass, building a raw rock-n-roll energy until it drops into the first verse. It’s a trick often used by Medusa’s Disco: throwing the crowd into a hurricane of sound, then blowing out the flame—the hush allowing their message to illuminate on its own. The Lancaster, PA band is made up of Wynton Huddle (guitar, vocals), Hunter Root (guitar, vocals), Alex Aument (drums) and Justin Wohlfeil (bass), and Orphic Grimoire is their fourth studio release.
As a whole, Orphic Grimoire is an unabridged depiction of the duality that Medusa’s Disco straddles. Bringing high energy rock-n-roll into its world of dark and peculiar, Medusa’s tones and words ooze with emotion. The next track and previously-released single, “Book Upon My Shelf,” especially shows off this model of sound. The music is almost brooding behind Root’s haunting voice until Huddle comes in, and Aument and Wohlfeil conjure up that hurricane.
Medusa’s Disco sweeps in a lighter mood with “Painters Painting Paintings,” another pre-released single. Playfully messing with the idea of when we can all retire and do what we love, “become painters painting paintings,” the song is bouncy and fun. Earlier this year, Medusa’s Disco invited fans to take part in their video shoot for “Painters,” so it’s no surprise this song seems to be a favorite. The pace quickly changes with the opening of “Knowledge.” The dreamy sitar invites listeners into enchantment, but the spell is quickly broken by guitar riffs, the coo of Huddle and a fun tango-esque beat. The addition of the sitar, intricate guitar solos and the careful snarl that can be heard in Huddle’s singing makes this track really stand out.
I hope it was planned that the lyrics, “it started in your stomach, crawled into your skin, these feelings you have make you an awkward alien,” from the track “I Don’t Feel Anything,” precedes my personal favorite track of the album, “Belly Ache.” Medusa’s Disco’s songwriting is a quality that sets them apart from other bands. The lyrics in “Belly Ache” are especially beautiful: “And if I ever had the choice, I’d give your aching heart a voice, and let the wind fill up your lungs, and watch your shout blow out the sun.” The song is shaken up from its live rendition with saxophone by YAM YAM’s Jason Mescia intertwined into its instrumental breakdown. Immediately setting up for another breakdown, Root and Huddle repeat the lines, “I give it all, I give you everything, to see me fall, so you can feel the sting,” accumulating energy with each cycle until crashing back into the chorus.
Opening in euphoria, “Wherever You Wander” sets the mood for a heartfelt song that makes you want to grab the person next to you and give them a hug. But don’t think because it’s a mushy subject that Medusa’s Disco veers away from their powerful vocals and jammy rifts. “My pistol,” however, opens with harmonica, which is bound to throw some people for a loop. Listeners are clicked back into the Medusa vibe when an audible “yeeeeee-haw!” can be heard in the background before instrumentals from the entire band kick into the track.
“Tear it Apart” and “There He Goes” are perfect displays of the fast-paced and jammy rock that Medusa’s Disco has etched away at for the last six years. Both tracks capture the uncut, “sex, drugs, rock-n-roll” edginess that already-fans have fallen for. The energy of shouts, laughter, and screams of “motherfuckers” raise above and below their instrumental mountains.
“Waiting for Karma” travels through a surfy, spacey dimension with rolling drum patterns and echoing vocal distortions. Bass and drum breakdown with sitar and sounds that can only be described as something that should come out of Marvin the Martian’s ray gun. The sound portal walks with listeners into the second verse of the track until tossing them back into the ether where they’re instructed to “sit down, shut up and wait until your thoughts disintegrate.”
Ironically, “Sizzle Into Oblivion”—easily the most popular song among fans—is one of the first tracks I recognized this band by, and the closer to Orphic Grimoire. Go to a show, and you’ll see people go absolutely nuts when the opening chords break out. This studio rendition is a gorgeous snapshot of the powerful ballad. Seriously, these lyrics will hit you in all of the feels. When the hurricane dulls just long enough for Huddle to deliver the lines, “I passed you on the subway, I can feel my heart still beating,” it is nothing short of the stuff goosebumps are risen from.
Orphic Grimoire was recorded, mixed, and produced entirely by Medusa’s Disco. The collection materializes live songs that fans have been screaming along to for years. Although these tracks may have a fresh take from what you’d hear live, the album is a perfect snapshot of the energy that Medusa’s Disco brings to listeners and continues to accumulate as a band.