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On paper, this album is a pile of junk. The amount of repetition borders on the ridiculous, the drum machine sounds cheap, and the album is laden with melodies so shamelessly cheesy that they would make Jean Michel Jarre blush. Echoed croaks and tremolo guitars join to complete a baffling combination of black metal and synthpop – one that even dares to draw the entirety of its lyrical content from the writings of Tolkien. It takes a sick mind to fuse ideas such as this. Pizzicato strings, archaic computer drumming and hobbits? How on (Middle) Earth can anything good come out of that? Plain impossible!
Yet, for all its clumsiness, I keep returning to this album day after day. Perhaps it is precisely that clumsiness that retains my interest: since no grandiose production tricks steal my attention, everything on Dol Guldur is an abstraction of itself. The percussion sound is so far from human that it no longer needs to sound human; same goes for the synthesizer strings, flutes and whatnot. The actual sounds are merely abstract placeholders, and the mind of the listener does the work to hear the music beyond the sound.
Disc goes in, push Play. I chuckle for a few seconds at the synthesizer sound, and then it happens: additional layers of music – which don’t actually exist – start to appear in the sparingly composed songs. The band provides just enough to fuel the flames: a simple beat and some melody hooks, something for the mind to build upon – new rhythms and layers of harmony, different each day. The masterful foundation of everything is that the listener is there with the band to create the music, as opposed to the average metal album that reveals its cards all at once.
The musical framework pounds on slowly throughout the album, the steady drum beats (almost devoid of any cymbals) changing little along the way. “Repetition” of riffs becomes “hypnosis”, and time loses its meaning. The horns of Elfstone merge with the synth-woodwind of Khazad Dúm and further on into the next part of the hypnosis, Kôr. The trance is not interrupted by drastic changes in mood, so the same effect lasts to the very end.
This album completely disarms me of hurry and worry, even to the point that certain annoyances of earthly life cease to exist. Try it in morning traffic; you will find yourself in near-death situations because you forgot to look around yourself. Knowledge of hobbit-journeys is optional – the landscapes illustrated by this work are not restricted to those created by that one British chap.