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Keys of Orthanc - A Battle in the Dark Lands of the Eye

Keys of Orthanc
A Battle in the Dark Lands of the Eye
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 22 August 2019, 6:06 AM

Tolkein Metal! KEYS OF ORTHANC are back with their second release…an epic Black Metal journey through the vast lands of Middle Earth. The second album of the now Canadian two man project is all about the war of man and orc, between light and darkness in the gloomy lands of Mordor. Orthanc is of course the black tower of Isengard, where Saruman resides. It translates to “Mount Fang” in Sindarin, and “Cunning Mind” in Old English. We all know his mind turned to metal, and he joined the side of Sauron, making Gandalf the White Wizard. The album contains seven tracks.

The title track leads us off.  A gentle synth and the squalking of a crow leads to a Folky sound…the breath before the deep plunge if you will. “At the Gate” opens with what sounds like the shrieking scream of a Nazgul. The sound is fairly traditional in terms of the vocals, but the music presents some diversity. A lower guttural voice might be simulate the voice of Sauron. It pauses a bit for some clean vocal chanting. “Besieged” opens with an understandable guitar riff, something that is not often heard in the genre. Clean, sterile vocals come into the fold, along with raspy Black Metal screams, almost as if the two are exchanging unpleasantries.

“The Old Castle at Durthang” refers to a formerly deserted castle in norther Mordor that became an orc stronghold in the battle of Pelenor fields. Soft, acoustic guitars open the song, leading to a distorted riff and a despondent sound. A deep voice produces the vocals here, with power and authority. “Lord’s Bane” opens with a full-on wall of riffs and galloping drums. Following some Black Metal screams, some more clean vocals come into play, again in a yin and yang approach. The sound has a regal quality to it. “Uruk Agh Burgul” is a little shorter of a song, coming in at just over five minutes. The riff moves around a little here and there, creating this ominous feeling of a tense battle. That deep voice is really quite harrowing.

“A Dawn in Mordor” closes the album, and ends the battle between orc and man. The sound of sweet cello strings mark the victor. With a hypnotic sound, light is seen in Mordor for the first time in many, many decades. Overall, I really enjoyed the album. The imagery invoked by the use of different vocal types really tied the story together well, and who doesn’t like an album based on the works of the late, great, J.R.R. Tolkein? You can feel the hot breath of the Nazgul, and smell the stench of the orcs. It’s Black Metal at its core, but it explored a little with some other elements to keep it interesting. I have no doubt any fan of Black Metal will find this album to their liking.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. A Battle in the Dark Lands of the Eye
2. At the Gate
3. Besieged
4. The Old Castle of Durthang
5. Lord’s Bane
6. Uruk Agh Burgul
7. A Dawn in Mordor
Dorgul – All Instruments, Vocals
Harslingoth – Vocals
Record Label: Naturmacht Productions


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