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Leading in with an epic battle sound, Sydney’s Bane of Isildur introduce what from the outside one might initially expect to be an attempt to cover Swedish death metal band Amon Amarth. However, as the intro finishes and ‘Howling Winds of Eternity’ begins in a deep guttural growl, the band already proves that they have something different to offer. With an epic and soaring lead guitar sound, chugging riffs and blackened death metal vocals greeting the listener, the band begins to take us on a journey back in time to the battlefields in the Nordic lands of Europe.
Branded as Triumphant War Metal, the soaring lead guitar along with the underlying drumming particularly draws my attention with its ability to keep the keep each song original and interesting. The atmosphere created within the music leaves me with an uplifting sense that while in the chaos that surrounds, there is hope left. It’s almost as if the band has translated into music the words that Tolkien used to describe Frodo and Sam while on the slopes of Mount Doom in the classic story ‘Lord of the Rings’.
Influences in the music have been gathered from bands such as Immortal, Einherjer, Amon Amarth and the legendary Bathory, yet still keeping a sense of originality within the genre. The one main criticism that I have is that the recording of the vocals sounds a little too rough and distorted. This could be seen as being in the ‘true’ black metal spirit, but I can’t help but want a bit more clarity.
With a new album in the works, and after hearing some of the new tracks live, I’m definitely excited to hear what’s to come from Bane of Isildur. 8/10
Having seen these guys once live, I was not expecting too much on record, but upon seeing their disk at Utopia (a major Sydney metal store), I thought it would be fair to give it a listen especially since I had a spare ten bucks. The first thing that I noticed was the excellent production. Looking on the back of the booklet, I could see that the disk has been recorded in Studio 301, Alexandria, which from what I know is a very good studio.
The music then, is Death/Black Metal akin to Amon Amarth (but with more BM) and gargling hoarse growls. The band entered the sound room in good shape – the takes are all tight and focused. There is a lot of emphasis on chuggy rhythm guitar and mid-paced leads. The drums are simple, but fitting; and the whole recording is nicely balanced. The songs are crunchy, with epic riffs and moderately showy lead-work. The vocals are multi-layered but really fail to evoke an atmosphere for me to grab onto.
Unfortunately for all the positives, this recording doesn’t really come to my liking. I feel this is due to the general lack of originality (semi-melodic death/black metal, the Tolkien theme, songs about battle from modern city dwellers). Yes, I can try to pick out the more interesting bits in this and see if I can make myself like it, but I simply cannot be bothered. This is not for me. And whilst the first listen was a bit of a surprise, return visits have provided me with no greater enjoyment, other than revisiting the nice production.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Bane of Isuldur, other than I have heard this elsewhere before and did not enjoy it too much. They do not hook me with anything about their actual music and I do not want to listen to this again.
Originally published in Procession of Black Doom zine #2
Bane of Isildur labels their brand of melodic death metal as 'triumphant war metal'. This perfectly describes the feeling and atmosphere present on the band's self-titled EP. The music has an essentially uplifting sound, creating moods and images akin to triumphing in battle. As I mentioned in the first sentence, Bane of Isildur play melodic death metal, that's exactly what it is; death metal that's designed to be melodic in sound and structure, not estrogen fuelled melodeath or Gothenburg.
The music present on Bane of Isildur's self-titled EP isn't overly complex or layered; it's quite easy to pick out the individual elements that make up the music: one down tuned guitar, a higher tuned guitar playing clearer notes, bass, drums and vocals. This isn't a bad thing though as the production, composition and more than competent performance make the music sound fuller and richer than my synopsis of the music would imply.
Songs generally start with a short instrumental intro up before the vocals kick in, like the songs 'The One', which starts with some mid paced cymbals and bass drumming in sync with thrummed riffs. Once the intros are out of the way the verses of the songs are very up tempo and intense with songs like 'Arise Triumphant' that make use of fast 4/4 patterns and double bass sections supporting both guitars as they both play the same riff. Songs are, for the most part, structured like this (with the exception of 'Grey Skies of Winter', which is essentially filler free and straight-forward): they start with a mid-paced intro followed by a verse, which is then followed up by an instrumental passage before another verse or blast beat section begins. The music isn't pure death metal, after all, the music has more of a Norse mythology/viking centered aesthetic than a regular death metal band, so the band has sacrificed some of the elements that would make the music purely death metal in favour of more triumphant, upbeat melodies, and even a few riffs that wouldn't sound out of place in a heavy or power metal album, like a few of the riffs scattered throughout songs like 'Howling Winds of Eternity' and 'Grey Skies of Winter'. That's not to say that the music isn't death metal either; blast beats and tremolo picked riffs among other traditional death metal elements are present on the entire EP, though they can seem a bit tagged on in places. The intro track is a good example of death metal instrumentation, albeit a bit modernised, with the constant bass drumming propelling death metal chugs along for most of the song.
There are two distinct guitar styles used here: a heavy, distorted guitar that forms the foundation of the music chugging underneath a cleaner guitar that plays more complex and melodic riffs. The distorted guitar tends to play straight chords and tremolo picked riffs that are more inclined to work in sync with the percussion, though that isn't the case throughout the entire EP, while the clean guitar plays higher notes and riffs that alternate between different chords both smoothly and rigidly as well as tremolo picked riffs. Bass is present in the form of short stretches of low-end rather than clunking strings underneath the guitars, and often follows the guitars along. Drumming is solid and not overly intricate and provides a good base for the structure of the music. Drum work makes use of a lot of steady 4/4 drumming composed of alternating bass and snare hits backed by tinkling cymbal work in the longer instrumental passages and blast beats backed by tremolo picked riffs, with cymbals often being second in priority to the rest of the percussion work. Double bass is very propulsive and makes use of lots of short little double bass fills as well as long mid-paced runs that drive the instrumental passages along. Vocals are well suited to the music: a raspy growl-roar that is clear enough to be able to make out lines of the lyrics without having to read from a booklet. Occasional double tracking is used, for example at the beginning of 'Howling Winds of Eternity' or other lines beginning while the other fades out, like on 'Grey Skies of Winter'.
Bane of Isildur have, if nothing else, provided a solid leg to stand on with their debut EP. They don't try to be innovative or experimental, but the music they play isn't dull either, apart from a few overlong filler sections. It's a pretty good, solid effort for a first release and Bane of Isildur is definitely a band worth keeping an eye on.