Ortario is an alternative hard rock band from the South Wales Valleys, a region rich in musical heritage, as I’ve written about several artists and bands from that bucolic corner of the country. I’ve been following Ortario for more than four years, and first wrote about them back in March 2017, when I reviewed their debut EP A Place Called Home for The Symphony of Rock blog. (You can read that review here.) Comprised of Chris Clark (vocals), Jamie Thomas (bass), Scott Lloyd (guitar), Mark Lloyd (guitar) and Nathan Lewis (drums), the band released their self-titled album Ortario in April 2018, followed that December by Live, featuring live versions of seven of their best songs.
On September 4th, Ortario returned with their second EP Playing With Fire, featuring five hard-hitting bangers that see them exploring a harder rock sound. As the title suggests, the songs address themes of duplicity and mistrust, and the damage it can cause in relationships. There’s an interesting little story behind the artwork for the EP, as explained by the band: “The matchsticks that appear on the front cover of the EP actually spell out ‘Ortario’. The lettering seen is taken from the old Welsh and primitive Irish alphabet called “Ogham”, which dates back to the 3rd century. The medieval inscription was primarily used on tombstones and stone monuments. Examples of this alphabet can still be found in Pembrokeshire, West Wales.”
The guys get right down to business with the opening track “Losing Control”, blasting through the speakers with a furious onslaught of thunderous distortion and pummeling rhythms. Chris has a perfect voice for their style of hard rock – powerful enough to keep up with the intense instrumentals, while retaining a heartfelt vulnerability that beautifully conveys the pain and despair described in the lyrics. He laments of having to lose a piece of himself along with his self-esteem in order to keep his deteriorating relationship alive: “So I guess I better swallow my pride. But oh, I just want one more go. I know I think I’m losing control. And I don’t want to see the end. Not long ago you were my friend. And everything that we shared, I would never think it’d end this way.“
Ortario continues on their relentless sonic rampage as they launch into “Save the Day”, delivering frantic riffs of gnarly guitars and smashing drumbeats. “The Fall” follows suit, as Scott and Mark’s dual guitars slice through the airwaves with a barrage of jagged, buzzsaw riffs, while Jamie drives the rhythm forward with his propulsive bassline and Nathan aggressively beats his drum kit into submission.
“Time and Space” opens with a melodic intro of gently strummed guitar, accompanied by measured percussion and vocal harmonies lasting around 30 seconds before the song erupts in a storm of shredded guitars and thunderous percussion. While I do love the guys’ hard-driving sound, I also like when they scale things back and show their softer side. I would have enjoyed hearing an entire song played in the more acoustic style that the song opened with. That said, “Time and Space” is a highly satisfying badass rocker with some fine reverb-soaked guitar work.
They close out the EP with the hard-rocking “Sunrise”, featuring more of their signature blistering riffs and massive, speaker-blowing rhythms. The chiming guitar and Chris’s echoed vocals in the bridge add a bit of enchanting beauty, quickly followed by a final blast of distorted guitar to close things out with a bang.
Playing With Fire is an explosive little fireball, delivering 17 minutes of unrelenting hard rock grooves. The five members of Ortario really know how to kick ass, and if you like rock music that’s heavy, aggressive and loud, you will enjoy this EP.
To learn more about Ortario, check out their Website