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Rousing atmospheric BM lacks distinctiveness - 60%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, December 7th, 2017

While the track titles might allude to main-man Erebos' interest in all things Tolkienesque, the music on this album is entirely instrumental so listeners need not know very much about the 20th-century English writer's work to appreciate it. Much of the album is rousing atmospheric mood music played mostly on synthesisers - I'd say these are the dominant instruments here, not the guitars and percussion - with the result that the album is more epic prog hard rock than it is black metal. What black metal there is, is more for effect and contrast with the keyboards, and it does sound very hard and gritty against the smooth synth tones.

Each of the four tracks is very long, with none below 9 minutes in length and (to be honest) all sounding very similar in their earnestness and attempts to be epic and impressive. Starting with "Long Before Elves Awoke", the music tries to be delicate and gentle in its introduction but once the keyboards start up, the heavy-handed approach sweeps away all nuance and goes for blunt-force bombast. Grand synth wash battles for attention with aggressive rapid-fire BM guitars fringed with enough grit to sound tough and hardened although the guitar-synth combination makes the track more post-metal than BM or post-BM. While Erebos strives to express melancholy most of the time, the synth layers end up sounding more triumphant and overbearing than sad and forlorn.

The template having been established with "Long Before ...", the other three songs follow, alternating from trying-to-be-but-not-succeeding-too-well delicate melodies to sweeping synth orchestral grandeur to slashing BM guitar riffs. Try as Erebos might in creating intense emotion and atmosphere, the results sound flat and forced - having to rely so much on synthesisers or computers, and not enough on live instrumentation (even if off-key and wonky - I don't expect all-round brilliance), results in music that sounds generic and lacking in a distinctive style that is Erebos' alone.

The whole recording probably would have worked better if all four songs were linked and they became four chapters of one over-arching work. As the album stands, the four pieces don't differ all that much and the energy from one track flows more or less straight into the next with barely a pause. A long opus, even a soundtrack to an imaginary film, might suit Erebos' talent and liking for majestic atmospheric BM / prog rock fusion.