Drums made in Serbia on the banks of the mighty Danube river. That’s surely a first for us and most welcome too.
Oriollo is a young company started by Vukan Karadzic with the mission to build snare drums and full kits from seamless cast and spun metals. Absolutely no sign of any welds or studs. Aluminium, copper, brass and bronze are all available, while for review we have spun manganese steel in Oriollo’s Ferromang Series. The drums are made available in the UK by Betta Drums.
Oriollo’s main selling point is its mission to offer several ranges of drums in various metals, with every shell produced seamlessly by either spinning or casting. Most metal drums are made by rolling sheet metal into a circle and welding, brazing or simply studding the join. This obviously creates a discontinuity in the shell. With cast and spun shells there is no join. Repeated spinning is said also to ‘realign the grain structures’ of the metal, hardening it and clarifying the resonance.
Oriollo has three spun series: Ferromang (manganese steel), Phantom (aluminium) and Bakar (copper); plus three cast series: Forte (steel), Cadenza (brass) and Bellmaker (bell bronze). Snare drums are available in all of these series, plus one extra choice, which is spun brass and called Giramondo. That’s a pretty impressive selection right there, and we have just one to examine this month - a spun Ferromang Series kit in sizes 20"x14", 12"x8" and 15"x12", accompanied by a 14"x61⁄2" snare drum.
Along with the series options Oriollo has four different shell profiles. Cast shells are either ‘Straight’ with flat sides and a standard, default thickness of 3mm, but with the option to increase that up to 8mm (which in passing it’s worth noting is colossal). Alternatively, ‘Reringed’ cast shells have 5mm reinforcing style rings added to the top and bottom of the shell, giving a broader platform for the bearing edges. And the bearing edge profiles, by the way, are customisable.
Spun shells are termed ‘Classic’ - with rounded top edge and 45 degree bottom edge - or ‘Oriphonic’, which is what we have here. Oriphonic is most unusual, having a 45 degree flanged top edge coupled with a bottom edge that has a strengthening bead and then an angled lip. Vukan explains: “Having a flanged edge on the bottom wouldn’t offer as much resonance or liveliness and would only raise the production costs. So... two birds with one stone.”
Finish-wise our toms and bass drum have a textured black Sable Noir powder coating, while the snare drum is a shiny Hibiscus Red. Other finishes include Sable Blue, Piano Black and Natural Steel. Check UK dealer Betta Drums’ website for examples of the many snazzy customisable finishes also on offer. Small toms are supplied without intrusive mounts, meanwhile, floor toms have the requisite three legs. There’s a good range of sizes, grouped from 10"x7" up to 16"x14". Bass drums are 20" and 22", up to 14" in depth.
In keeping with Oriollo’s aim eventually to manufacture all its own component parts the lugs are also special. They are not plated but instead are polished stainless steel, which is certainly not something you see every day. What’s more, Oriollo uses extra hard and durable 316 grade stainless steel with its higher resistance to corrosion. Said lugs add considerably to the already weighty shells.
Shape-wise the lugs are inspired by the classic teardrop profile with three facets, hence the TriDrop description. They are hollow and feature a particularly high bridge - in fact, you can pick up the drums just by looping your finger inside the bridge. This is particularly easy with the double-ended snare lug design. We’d hazard these are the most durable lugs on the market. Complementing the lugs, Oriollo’s TriDrop bass drum claws are likewise cast and polished steel while the hoops, you’ll not be surprised to learn, follow the Ferromang steel formula.
This brings us to the snare drum, which has a slightly different shell profile. It’s still called Oriphonic, but instead of a single lower convex bead it has double convex beads in the centre, snare drum style. Fulfilling the strainer/throw-off duties, Oriollo has designed a small but effective cast Butterfly strainer. As for wires, these are Oriollo’s standard 20 strand German Bronze.
Steel shells may conjure up the memory of a wayward metallic clamour. This is often our first experience when starting out with one of those basic cheaper-than-chips budget snares. But that’s not the case with these Oriollo Ferromang drums at all. On the contrary, they are focused and dark, surprisingly almost sombre at first. In particular, the classically proportioned 20"x14" bass drum is tight and tough. It’s a thumper not a thwacker, taut not flappy.
Actually, as per preconception, we’re expecting more ambient ring, so - thus intrigued - we stick our head close to the bass drum batter head and play the pedal by hand, whereupon we are startled to hear just how deep the report is. The fundamental frequency is seriously sub-bass.
The no-join spinning process results in an uninterrupted cylinder that has a clear yet wide frequency range. But it does not reverberate in the way a light and thin wood shell does. It’s too rigid for that. The structural stability seems to make not only the shell but also the tone somewhat rigid. The result is it’s a hard and sort-of unforgiving response - modern in a sampled, dancey way. Almost electro in its fierce thud. Terse but profound.
The toms have a similar precision. Steel is arguably more neutral in timbre by comparison with the more complex so-called ‘musical’ metals, brass and bronze. That seems the case here. The small tom is clarity personified. But because of the precision of the hard steel spun shell, it is easy to tune high or low - the head doesn’t flap or flutter. At high tuning you get a pure bebop sort of short and focused note - reminiscent of classic Max Roach. The in-between sized 15"x12" floor tom seems the most rangy of all four drums. It retains the same crispness, but adds plenty of spread when tuned down a bit. Again, it doesn’t turn flabby, just low, broad and punchy.
Oriollo’s suggested shell size range is on the shallow side, which implies there’s no need for a deep shell to get a powerful low tone from these seamless metal tubs. When all this is applied to the 14"x61⁄2" snare drum the result is a snare that achieves a rare, stark lucidity. Sticking is marching band articulate - snappy, clipped in the extreme, but in a forceful manner. The clarity can make the tone a bit hollow, and some slackening of the bottom head and the wires is needed to fatten up the backbeat.
The neat small-footprint Butterfly strainer has a partly vintage vibe, but it works perfectly well. Wire tension is applied at the butt end, while the throw-off is a modest pull-down bracket, tiny but deftly engineered like everything else.