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As Epic as the Movie - 90%

DeviousDarren, June 20th, 2007

“Hyborea” is the first full-length album for Los Angeles, California doomsters, Keen of the Crow. Formerly, the group self-released a demo then a mini-disc of the same name, “Premonition.” The demo caught the attention of Grau records—a German-based label known for releasing quality doom metal like Mourning Beloveth and Saturnus. Those who have read R.E. Howard’s pulp fantasy novels, the Marvel Comic, and have seen the movie know that “Hyborea” belongs to the Conan mythos. Each song on “Hyborea” musically recreates eleven of the most significant parts of the Conan story.

Keen of the Crow does well in capturing the magic, wrathful sentiment found in the story of Conan the Barbarian. “Prologue” and “Epilogue” begin this album in a similar fashion to the beginning and ending of the Conan movie. Drummer, Rhett Davis clicks his drum sticks after a couple of kettle drum beats. The low-level drum beats instill a distant quality, showing the tale is one of times long gone. These short intros and outros recall the wizard’s narrations in the film.

The music and vocals properly portray the movie’s characters and themes. “The Eye of the Serpent” and “To Reach Emptiness” represents the antagonists, The cult of Set, who murdered Conan’s parents and lit his heart with a burning flame for revenge. “The Eye of the Serpent” is an instrumental break played with keyboards and an acoustic guitar built upon the melody of the scene where Conan and his companions break into the Cult of Set’s temple during a gruesome ritual. KOTC borrows a sound clip of James Earl Jones’s character, Thulsa Doom’s, harrowing speech after the three warriors desecrate his temple.

“To Reach Emptiness” captures the dark philosophy of Thulsa Doom and his cult. Singer Dan Ochoa’s clean vocal narrations enchant and allure with the promise that emptiness will set you free. The doomy guitar riffs at the beginning help paint a picture of the black void Thulsa Doom is offering. Further into the song, the music descends even closer into oblivion with exceptionally strong death vocals and serpentine doom rhythms, like the serpent’s coils are constructing away your soul. The musical break from this portion of the song is my personal favorite rhythm of the whole album. Candlemass comes to mind on this one through an undulating, mid pace rhythm that eerily ringing out in the end, enfolding the cult follower in its venomous sound.

Candlemass’ influence is obvious throughout many of the tracks. “Seeking Fury, Becoming Wrath” and “Where Dead Kings Lie” feature doomed soundscapes of Candlemass-like precision. KOTC is no Candlemass rip off band by any means. One can find influences by many other bands including Primordial, Neurosis, and Celtic Frost. The heavy gallop of “Where Dead Kings Lie” moves in a fashion recalling Celtic Frost in its prime; while, ambient breaks on tracks like “Hyborea” show a clear Neurosis influence. The churning, mid paced rhythms are in line with Primordial. Additionally, the group hasn’t forgotten bassist Justin Christian and drummer Rhett Davis’ Morgion roots.

In “Hyborea,” Keen of the Crow has created an intriguing album of vengeful doom metal and magical ambience, giver a proper metal soundtrack to one fantasy literature and film’s most beloved stories. Rumor has it that Keen of the Crow has disbanded. Let’s hope this is not true, fore “Hyborea” is a classic doom metal album. If it is, though, at least the group has given us an album that will stand the test of time.

originally published on www.metal-mayhem.co.uk