"Oruga" is the Spanish word for caterpillar, which seems like a peculiar name for a doom and stoner band until you recall the hookah-toking caterpillar from "Alice in Wonderland", then it all makes sense. France's ORUGA makes no pretentions about what they are. They are a European interpretation of DOWN, WEEDEATER, SLEEP and CROWBAR, who are, in turn, acid-slung American interpreters of European doom and heavy metal. So the cycle renews.
Originally issued in 2011, ORUGA's five-song self-titled EP debut resurfaces to an intercontinental audience through Apathia Records, which now includes the bonus track "Blitzkrieg Lady". The reissue is designed to re-introduce the band, which plans to release their first full-length around mid-2014. That being said, ORUGA is sure to be embraced by doom and stoner heads, even if there's only a little miscellany in their tried-and-true arsenal to speak of.
Opening with done-before soundbytes of the screeching exposition to the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", ORUGA doesn't leave much hope they have anything original to bring to the table. This is largely the case on their EP, but as long as you understand these guys are trying their hand at doom (reportedly a rare commodity in their turf of Nord-Pas-de-Calais) and doing a respectable, if frequently noisome job at that, you'll get along fine.
"Northern Promises" and "Kissing the Void" are standard plod-along doom-stoner pieces you're well-familiar with, the latter song being spliced with senses-crushing catatonics at the end. Ditto for "Like a Stone in the Water", which opens with punishing static and distortion before pummeling along to the same up and down chord structures. BLACK SABBATH modes are abound, especially the longer "Like a Stone in Water" winds on and tries to nudge some melody out of the primary doom shuffles. In-between is "My 9-11", the best and most diverse song on the album. This one has more of a punk furrow about it and ORUGA engages here instead of drags along. "My 9-11" coaxes empathy from the listener as grizzled vocalist Cedric M. implores "your silence is killing me" repeatedly as the guitars provoke some genuine emotion leading to a killer, pissed-off finale.
The distorted bass plugs opening "Crimson Dawn" are also cool and ORUGA does change the chord patterns up to pull out more melancholia with heavier sludge than the earlier tunes. The shivery guitar waves during the bridge is a great maneuver as set up to the loud final stanza that exhibits a few higher octaves, suggesting a dormant glimmer of faith amidst the song's otherwise pervading gloom. ORUGA finishes "Crimson Dawn" with a trippy wall of feedback that only pricks the ears instead of overwhelming them.
"Blitzkrieg Lady" is murkier and sloppier than the main feature tracks of the EP, but its snide chord tugs and eventual acceleration to mid-tempo is an appreciable dynamic for a by-and-large slow-moving vehicle. It's presumed ORUGA will maintain the same songwriting schemes as this EP, which means they should focus on tightening up and seeking out more progressions like "My 9-11" to change things up if they want to maintain a loyal audience.