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A Worthy Tribute To Another Realm - 96%

Skarnek, September 12th, 2012

Uncle Bob is nobody to toy around with in an opinionated matter. Subjectively, Middle Earth is what is. It's a transcendental and inspired work of melodic fantasy. The lyrics are directly about what is arguably the most renowned fantasy epic in literature. As for theory, the music is done just right for this type of palette- joyfully, mournfully, and emotive; calling upon the right chord sequences and minor notes that travel seamlessly with the sentiment of the stories contained. Whether one enjoys this kind of thing relies entirely on the listener's taste. If approached by a person who appreciates fiction, saccharine melodicism, and AOR-flavoured vocals; then this album will be appreciated. If approached by someone who deflowered his teen girlfriend to the bludgeoning of Pantera in the background, well then...it won't be received kindly. One must be appreciative of a more cerebral and surreal experience than that of mere animal instinct. This is for the dreamers.

Having said that, I will attempt to describe some of the intangible realities of this wonderful tribute to Sir Tolkien. The dramatic cymbal swells and keyboards opening the album are an immediate indication of the type of vastness those that care to go on Bob's (and Gary Hughes', respectively) journey are in for, crescendoing with building tom-work and flamboyant guitar squeals. No emotion is held back by anyone on this inspired concept album. It's obvious that every performer knows and feels high fantasy.

As a shameless fanatic for this album and artist (I know, I know...I somewhat blew my attempt at 'subjective'), I feel the cornerstone, the heart, the timeless classic of this work is "Where You Lead, I'll Follow", a touchingly tender song about the one and only Gandalf. Bob's aching, caring voice calls to this walking allegory of a character, amongst some of the most easily-treasured melodies ever recorded. That sounds like a stretch, but, believe you me, if you've read thus far; there's a good chance you are interested enough to find out.

There are numerous other highlights on Middle Earth. Finding your own golden moments should not prove to be a difficult task. The musicianship is top-notch, Mr. Catley's inimitable voice shines with the passion many singers lack (in favor of soulless technique or worse- laziness), and the story is- well- *epic* in the true sense of the word, and the songwriting is so well-done that I can almost hear Bob and Gary in their rehearsal room discussing how they can't mess up something as important as an album with Tolkien as the subject matter. Maybe they just didn't want to be snubbed off for Blind Guardian...Whatever the case, Middle Earth is a triumph.